Opinion

What I Would’ve Asked Christy Clark — If She Hadn’t Left Me Off Her Year-end Interview List

For some reason, The Tyee didn’t fit into the premier’s schedule. Here’s my list of unanswered questions.

By Andrew MacLeod 19 Dec 2016 | TheTyee.ca

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria and the author of A Better Place on Earth: The Search for Fairness in Super Unequal British Columbia (Harbour Publishing, 2015). Find him on Twitter or reach him here.

I should say off the top, I think British Columbia Premier Christy Clark has every right to decide who she does and doesn’t want to talk to.

Still, it’s interesting that this year, as Clark’s staff arranged year-end interviews with a string of reporters, I learned she wouldn’t be talking to me.

“I have the unfortunate duty to be the bearer of bad news,” Clark’s press secretary Stephen Smart informed me by email Thursday. “I’m very sorry but I’ve tried to make the schedule work this way, that way and the other and I am just not able to fit you in for a year-end interview tomorrow.”

“I completely fall on my sword here in that I should have pushed for a longer chunk of time for these,” wrote Smart, a former CBC reporter and press gallery colleague who went to work in Clark’s office in February. “I’d be happy to try and line you up with a senior minister instead if that might be helpful or something else in lieu of the premier. Just let me know if there is anything.”

While time with Mike de Jong, Rich Coleman or Coralee Oakes could be informative, it’s not the same as having time with Clark. We’ve seen so little of her at the legislature this fall because her government cancelled the scheduled sitting.

In a further email, Smart said “you are not the only one we can’t do.” But he failed to respond to questions about how many other reporters had been left out and what the grounds were for deciding who would and wouldn’t get a 15-minute slot with the premier this year.

And after checking with a dozen colleagues who work in the legislative press gallery, I can’t find anyone else who was left out (although several expressed sympathy).

Is it something in particular about me or The Tyee that’s aroused reluctance in the premier’s office this year? Something I said? Something I asked? Something they’re afraid I might ask?

Clark has sat down with me for year-end interviews in the past, and she survived them just fine.

In 2012, a few months before the 2013 election, topics we covered included inconsistencies in her anti-smoking policies and her failure to deliver on a promise to bring in a law prohibiting the cosmetic use of pesticides.

In hindsight though, the interview turned out to be most notable for Clark’s whopper. She told me then that her stipend from the BC Liberal Party was a “car allowance” so that she could drive to party events, without revealing the amount. But just this year we learned that Clark’s “car allowance” is for $50,000 annually, which would pay for quite the ride.

For last year’s interview we focused on the headwinds facing the liquefied natural gas industry and what that meant for delivering on her 2013 campaign promises of a debt-free B.C. I thought it was informative.

If I stepped over a line somewhere, that hasn’t been conveyed to me, though after last year’s interview, to which I wore jeans, Clark’s communications director Ben Chin, another CBC veteran, did ask me, “What, you couldn’t put a suit on for the premier?”

The last chance I got to ask Clark a question was at the Liberal Party convention in early November. There she explained to me why it was in the public interest for a big generic drug company to fund her party’s convention.

But we’re not the only outlet to ask Clark about the cash-for-access culture she oversees or tough other topics when given the chance.

Speaking of questions, here’s what I would have liked to ask Clark this year:

Why Clark would want to avoid answering questions like those is anyone’s guess. There’s nothing there she shouldn’t be able to address.

As for NDP leader John Horgan, he did sit down with The Tyee this year. You can read his thoughts on the economy and what he describes as Christy Clark’s avoidance of accountability here.  [Tyee]

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