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B.C. Liberals in for a fight to win May election, Christy Clark tells convention

British Columbia Premier Christy Clark, left, is flanked by party candidates before delivering a keynote address at the B.C. Liberal Party convention, in Vancouver on Sunday, November 6, 2016. British Columbians head to the polls for a provincial election May 9, 2017.


Christy Clark has told her party's faithful that they are in a tough fight to win May's provincial election.

On Sunday, the B.C. Premier told more than 1,300 Liberals attending the last party convention before the election on May 9 that "we are going to have to fight to succeed in 2017 like we have never fought before and we are going to have to make sure we earn every single vote that's out there.

"We're going to have to work our hearts out," she said in her keynote speech.

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Ms. Clark said she was skeptical about pundits, who say the Liberals are positioned to win again. "I didn't believe the pundits in the last election. I don't believe the pundits in this election either."

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Echoing a speech earlier in the three-day convention by former Barack Obama strategist Jim Messina, Ms. Clark said rank-and-file party members are the best force for securing a fifth term that could take the party to its 20th year in power.

"We are going to have to make sure that people know that they shouldn't vote for us because we think we're good. We want them to vote for us because they know we're good, and the only way they're going to find out is if we tell them."

Of the NDP, she said, "they're a party of quitters," and that the party should focus less on what New Democrats will say about Liberals than what Liberals will say about themselves.

Still, Ms. Clark told a subsequent news conference that the party is still working on its budget and platform. "What I've heard in the last few months is some really great ideas and people will see those in the coming months."

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Mike Farnworth, an NDP member of the legislature who attended the convention to monitor Ms. Clark's speech, said the outcome of the 2017 election is not a foregone conclusion.

He said New Democrats see a disconnect between the Premier and voters on issues ranging from education to affordability to increases in various rates and premiums.

"We're going to be laying out a positive vision on an economic front and social front that is going to speak to the issues and concerns of British Columbians right across this province."

Like the Liberals, he said a specific NDP platform is in the works.

The election will be Ms. Clark's second as a party leader, while NDP Leader John Horgan will be taking his party into a campaign for the first time.

Liberals said over the weekend they have nominated 60 candidates so far. There will be 87 seats up for grabs when voters go to the polls.

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Also on Sunday, Ms. Clark issued an emphatic challenge to Ottawa to protect the B.C. coastline, alleging federal governments have "short changed" and "cheated" the province on oil spill response for decades by focusing resources on the east.

Ms. Clark's comments come ahead of an expected announcement by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of a new environmental-protection program for the province. Mr. Trudeau will get a tour of the Vancouver Harbour aboard a Canadian Coast Guard ship Monday before a scheduled announcement with Transport Minister Marc Garneau.

During her convention speech, Ms. Clark said B.C.'s "incredible coastline" has been under consistent threat from tankers, and that, for decades, B.C. has not been protected from spills.

"We have been cheated by a federal government for a long time while resources have gone to the east. It is our time to make sure that our coast is properly protected."

The Premier said Mr. Trudeau can change the situation. "He has the chance to be the one that puts right this wrong that has been happening in British Columbia for far too long. I believe that he is going to be the one that does it."

In her post-speech news conference, Ms. Clark said the coast guard presence in B.C. is "minuscule or dwarfed" by the coast guard presence on the East Coast of Canada, though she did not offer any specifics on her concerns.

However, Ms. Clark's government over the weekend released a list of 11 desired resources for a "world-leading marine spill response" plan that is among its five conditions for supporting heavy-oil projects. They include legislation to make mandatory escort tugs for tankers calling on B.C. ports and a new $6-million Coast Guard station in Prince Rupert.

The Premier said she had no inside knowledge to suggest Mr. Trudeau was coming to the province with a plan," but I am hopeful because we have talked to them a lot about the five conditions and how important this is."

There are no official connections between the federal Liberals and the B.C. Liberals, who occupy the centre-right spectrum in B.C. politics.

Mr. Farnworth said the Premier's condemnation of federal governments was at odds with her affable previous relationship with former Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper. Ms. Clark has been premier since 2011, succeeding Gordon Campbell, who led the Liberals to power in 2001.

"I found it a bit rich to listen to the Premier criticizing a federal government when, for the last 10 years of Harper Conservatives being in power, this premier, I don't think, criticized them once," he told reporters.

"In fact, the Premier did everything she could to ingratiate herself to Stephen Harper. Now, all of a sudden, she's talking about decades of neglect by the federal government."

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About the Author
B.C. reporter

Ian Bailey is a Vancouver-based reporter for The Globe and Mail.  He covers politics and general news. Prior to arriving at The Globe and Mail, he reported from Toronto and St. John’s for The Canadian Press.  He has also covered British Columbia for CP, The National Post and The Province. More


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