Upbringing, student politics shaped Christy Clark’s views on B.C. politics, life

Christy Clark has a sweet tooth for B.C. politics

VANCOUVER — It was the lure of ice cream that first drew Christy Clark into politics.

As a child, the future premier of British Columbia would accompany her father as he knocked on doors around Burnaby during his several attempts for public office.

“He’d promise us ice cream,” Clark, 51, said in a recent interview.

“Hi, will you vote for my daddy?” she laughed, miming knocking on a door. “Who’s not going to vote for a candidate, or who’s at least not going to say something positive?”

Since then, Clark has enjoyed the sweet taste of her own political victories. She is leading the B.C. Liberal Party in its bid for a fifth consecutive election victory after she pulled off a come-from-behind win in 2013.

Beyond her father’s political ambitions, Clark’s family played a powerful role in shaping her approach to life and politics. Political debate was a mainstay around the dinner table.

“The only way for me to survive and succeed was to fiercely fight for what I believed.” said Clark, the youngest of four children. “I learned that at a very, very young age. If you didn’t cover your plate … somebody would eat your food.”

Clark would apply those lessons during her time in student government at Simon Fraser University, which she said was “the nastiest politics I’ve ever been involved in.”

She corralled a cohort of right-of-centre students to “break the stranglehold” the left had on the school’s student society. Clark won by a razor-thin six votes, but was later disqualified after forgetting to pay a small fine because she failed to remove campaign material.

Andy Tomec, who covered Clark’s run at student politics for the campus newspaper, remembers her as a consummate politician.

“I think she got up in the morning thinking about politics, and I bet she went to bed thinking about it as well,” Tomec said.

“I don’t know if she has an off button.”

The budding politician’s charisma and disarming smile were renowned.

Mike McDonald, a longtime B.C. Liberal who directed the party’s 2013 campaign, met Clark at Simon Fraser. They spent time as volunteers driving around the province before the 1991 election to recruit candidates for the upstart provincial Liberal party.

“I would … identify who the prospects were and she would go close the deal, because you couldn’t say no to Christy,” he said. “She has that personality that a lot of people want to say yes to.”

Those who were asked for comment on the premier say she is known for having a penchant for rough-and-tumble politics.

“She’s no shrinking violet,” McDonald said.

Clark was first elected to the legislature in 1996 and became deputy premier and education minister after the Liberals’ landslide victory in 2001. She left government in 2005 to spend more time with her family.

After a failed bid to run for Vancouver mayor the following year, she hosted a radio talk show.

Tom Plasteras, who hired Clark for the job, remembers her work ethic.

“Things that tend to exhaust the rest of us energize her,” said Plasteras, former program director at CKNW.

In 2011, Clark won the B.C. Liberal leadership as an outsider candidate with the support of only one member of the legislature. She became the first woman in B.C. to lead a party to victory two years later.

Clark enters this election with baggage.

The RCMP are investigating potential violations of political contribution laws by the two main parties, rosy forecasts that liquefied natural gas would herald an economic windfall have come up short, and there is opposition in the Lower Mainland to a pipeline expansion the government supports.

When she’s not working, Clark is an avid fan of musicals and plays, a passion she shares with her 15-year-old son Hamish, who she says has ambitions to become an actor.

But even when it comes to the theatre, politics isn’t far from her thoughts. Her favourite musical is Les Miserables.

“It’s a political show,” she said, smiling.

— Follow @gwomand on Twitter

Geordon Omand, The Canadian Press

Canadian Press

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Woman rescued from West Kelowna trail

The woman had to be rescued after falling on a trail and hurting her ankle

Kelowna woman to run ultramarathon for mental health awareness

After losing a friend to suicide, Melissa Gosse was reminded of how important mental wellbeing is

Kelowna-Mission Liberal candidate announced

Local developer Renee Merrifield is running for the BC Liberal Party in Kelowna-Mission

“Save Peachland’s Turner Park” petition gains traction

Local residents started the petition a week ago

Kelowna Liberal MLAs respond to ‘opportunistic’ snap election call

‘We have a fixed election date for a reason: so politicians like Mr. Horgan can’t try to arrange election dates when it suits political parties’

COVID-19: 4 more deaths, 366 new cases in B.C. since Friday

A total of 8,208 people in B.C. have tested positive for COVID-19 since January

16 COVID-19 cases reported in Interior Health region

One person is in hospital and 34 people are isolating

Group wants Parliament, courts to hold social media to same standard as publishers

Daniel Bernhard made the comments shortly after Friends of Canadian Broadcasting released a research paper

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Truck, Shuswap police vehicle collide during arrest of wanted man

Emergency response team and helicopter called out to assist in Chase area arrest

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Stolen vehicle recovered from site of Vernon manhunt for wanted man

Police return to Brooks Lane in response to reports of suspicious vehicle

Shuswap search and rescue crew respond to dirt biker injured on Mount Ida

North Vancouver man transported to hospital for treatment of injuries

Popular South Okanagan cafe shuts its doors

Saint Germaine Cafe and Gallery served its last latte Sept. 19

Most Read