Columbia River-Revelstoke MLA Norm Macdonald thinks that British Columbia’s new Premier, Christy Clark, has a lot to deal with — and quickly.
Clark won the B.C. leadership vote on Saturday, February 26th, beating out Surrey-Cloverdale MLA Kevin Falcon, Shuswap MLA George Abbott and Abbotsford West MLA Mike de Jong. Clark was elected in a weighted, preferential ballot system that saw about 62 per cent of registered Liberals cast votes.
“First of all, I’d like to congratulate her on getting this position,” said Macdonald. “It’s a difficult thing to do and I recognize that.”
Macdonald was hoping that Abbott would do better in the leadership vote, as he thinks Abbott understands rural issues to a deeper degree. Abbot was chair of the regional district during the same time as Macdonald was mayor of Golden.
Macdonald explained that Clark has several issues she should deal with quickly. These include getting an actual seat in a by-election, making decisions around the new budget, dealing with the harmonized sales tax (HST) and, in a broader context, getting the “government back on track”.
“We’ve been dysfunctional for many months now,” said Macdonald. “Clark needs to get the legislature back to work as we’ve been out of office, except for two weeks in February, for nine months now.”
As for the HST, Clark has said she will move the referendum date from September to late June. Macdonald suspects people of B.C. will want to get rid of the tax.
Macdonald is concerned about Clark’s professional history, especially as Minister of Education from 2001 to 2005. Clark changed the funding formula for education, a decision that Macdonald believes put rural districts in serious financial trouble. Over 100 schools were closed during her time as Minister, most of them in rural areas.
“She made some problematic and controversial choices,” said Macdonald. “ I think most educators at the time would see her as a failure.”
Clark is also personally tied to the BC Rail scandal, and Macdonald believes that at the very least Clark needs to order a public inquiry.
“Clark has been previously against an inquest, but I don’t see this as a sustainable position. There are all sorts of questions that still need to be answered.”
Macdonald said that Clark’s Family First platform seems at this stage to be merely a talking point, but admitted that we’ll have to wait and give Clark time to flesh out what she wants to do.
Macdonald finished by emphasizing that while Clark should be given a grace period of six months to a year, she shouldn’t go beyond this without holding a general election.
“People should be able to decide if she is an appropriate premier of our province or not.”
Clark told reporters last week that she is “not thinking of an election in the next few months,” and is focusing on earning a seat in the by-election and holding a referendum on the HST this June.