Waters:Clark has talked the talk; now it’s time to walk the walk

Premier-designate Christy Clark has to translate talk show host popularity into political longevity.

In the days since being elected Liberal leader and, by default, premier-designate of B.C., Christy Clark has become the subject of widespread number crunching.

Political pundits across B.C. have been pondering the numbers from the three rounds of voting, trying to figure out how this pseudo outsider won a race that pitted her against three MLAs who, up until the leadership contest began, were all high-ranking, popular cabinet ministers.

But the numbers are irrelevant. In the end, Clark won, Falcon lost and Abbott and DeJong were jettisoned along the way.

And Clark, the politician-turned radio talk show host turned-politician, has the fact she jumped out of politics in 2004 to thank for her re-entry at the highest level.

If she had stayed in politics, stayed in cabinet and run against Messrs. Abbott, DeJong and Falcon, there’s a good chance she would not have won. Her trump card was not only her claim to be an outsider but her daily, public conversations with callers to her show and her ability to bash the policies of the government she used to be part of.

As the only candidate not tainted by the controversy surrounding the HST—despite her personal support of the tax—Clark was able to paint herself as the agent of change. Of course, she’s as connected as the other three, having served in Gordon Campbell Liberal cabinet for five years, as education minister and deputy premier.

But 5 1/2 years out of government is a lifetime and as a radio talk show host in Vancouver, her political reputation was cleansed. It didn’t hurt that Clark also polled highest among all B.C. voters as the one to beat in the next provincial election.

An estimated total of 28,488 Liberal party members gave Clark the premier’s job but opinion polls heading into the vote showed she is considered the Liberal’s best bet for leading the party to another general election victory some time before 2013.

Unlike the NDP, whose penchant for self-destruction is now standard operating procedure, the Liberals consider provincial rule their right.

In the end, Clark’s victory was a pragmatic decision. Falcon would have been too polarizing and Abbott too conciliatory.

As for any split in the party—in the final round Clark took 52 per cent of the votes, while Falcon took 48 per cent—that will likely be put aside in the Liberals’ quest to hold power.

Locally, as expected, Abbott was the choice of Liberal voters in the three Central Okanagan ridings in the first round, and in Kelowna-Lake Country and Kelowna-Mission in the second round. His voters then split roughly two-thirds and one-third in favour of Falcon but it was not enough to hold off Clark in round three.

Her win showed media matters when it comes to politics in B.C. Her talk show days set up her victory.

For the last four years she talked the talk, now she has to walk the walk.

Alistair Waters is the Capital News’ assistant editor.

awaters@kelownacapnews.com