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BC Politics
BC Election 2013

Why Isn't Christy Clark More Popular?

She's gone from charismatic to crashing ratings. What happened?

Bill Tieleman 16 Apr

Bill Tieleman is a regular Tyee contributor who writes a column on B.C. politics every Tuesday in 24 Hours newspaper. E-mail him at [email protected] or visit his blog.

"For every person who says they dislike her because she's too casual, there is another person who dislikes her because she is too formal." -- Angus Reid pollster Mario Canseco on Christy Clark

How do we dislike B.C. Premier Christy Clark? Let me count the ways.

Because with a 65 per cent personal disapproval rating in a poll last month, a 20 per cent gap behind the front running New Democrats and only 16 per cent saying she would make the best premier after two years on the job, Clark is obviously not Miss Congeniality to British Columbians.

Some media pundits have professed it to be a mystery why Clark has gone from the BC Liberals' charismatic champion to a lackluster leader but there's a room full of obvious clues, some that we saw on her half-hour Sunday TV infomercial.

Clark has proven to be a political chameleon who will say and do anything to get votes, with breathtaking arrogance.

Like telling an audience celebrating Philippine Independence Day last year that: "In my heart, I am Filipina." Really?

Or on TV Sunday claiming that since her father left their family debt free, how could she leave B.C. with a debt? And the word "debt" kept getting repeated through the show.

Yet the BC Liberals are on their way to doubling the provincial debt since 2001, from $33.8 billion to $66.3 billion in 2015! But who cares about facts?

Then there's Clark's short shift for TV cameras as a diner "server", her Vancouver Canucks jersey girl pose [jinxing our Stanley Cup run?], setting up Alberta Premier Alison Redford as the "bad girl" on the Enbridge Pipeline proposal and Clark attacking the "sick culture in Victoria" -- despite previously saying she loved the B.C. Legislature.

Or how about Clark, a perpetual federal Liberal Party member who worked in Ottawa for them, cozying up to Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper -- even hiring several of his hard right ex-staff to make her look less Liberal.

Or becoming pals with former Reform Party leader Preston Manning, even attending his "conservative family reunion", a gathering of the kind of people Clark used to denounce as dinosaurs on her former CKNW radio talk show.

'She's willing to say anything': former radio colleague

Instead, Clark now denounces CKNW itself, criticizing several on-air hosts last year at a BC Liberal fundraiser for apparently not giving her an easier ride.

CKNW host Gord MacDonald wasn't going to take it anymore and he let Clark have it:

"We thought she was bright... she sounded articulate... and we all understood when she went left radio to seek the premier's job after Gordon Campbell resigned. Boy, were we wrong. Now, she insults the CKNW listener. Nobody listens to CKNW any more, right?" MacDonald broadcast on air last July.

"Yet again, Christy Clark showed on Saturday she's willing to say anything to anybody to get their vote. But speaking as one who clearly misjudged her talents as a politician, a word of warning. When times get tough, some people stay true to their word. Others, like Christy, don't," MacDonald concluded.

I had my own Clark experience at CKNW when she started guest hosting and I was making regular appearances and guest hosting also.

"You should stop attacking me," Clark told me in the studio off air one day, unhappy with my coverage of her role in the B.C. Legislature Raid case. "We're working on the same team now."

"No, we're not," I replied, rather astonished she would attempt such a blatant effort to influence my reporting.

Negative vibes

Clark is dislikeable for other reasons, with her condescending, self-righteous tone, singularly inability to admit any personal mistakes and lack of vision for the province.

Take her "jobs plan" that incorrectly claimed last fall that B.C. was first in job creation in Canada when it was actually in sixth place -- and has dropped further since then, without ever being corrected.

No matter -- spend $15 million in taxpayer dollars to advertise your jobs plan and spread the misinformation just before an election.

Are there still other ways to dislike Clark?

How about Clark's annoying habit of attempting to sound like a working class hero by deliberately dropping the "g" from words and sounding more like Larry the Cable Guy than Christy the Premier?

"What's needed here is a dose of humility and sort of asking for forgiveness," Hamish Telford, political science professor at Fraser Valley University Telford told CKNW's Bill Good on Monday.

"And for this premier, humility doesn't not come easily but I think it is important -- this lack of humility is why often politicians get turfed out," he said. "Parties rarely win elections in Canada, governments lose them."

And Clark leads a government headed for a humility lesson.  [Tyee]

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