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Clark says she’ll debate party leaders, not her riding opponents

B.C. Premier Christy Clark speaks to reporters following the release of a report by her deputy, John Dyble, in Victoria on March 14, 2013.

Chad Hipolito/The Canadian Press

Premier Christy Clark says she won't attend any all-candidates' meetings in her Vancouver riding because she prefers to debate the other party leaders, notably the NDP's Adrian Dix.

Ms. Clark made her stand clear Wednesday amid criticism over her absence from an all-candidates meeting earlier this week organized by the students' society at the University of British Columbia. The B.C. Liberals said the invitation for the event came too late.

But Ms. Clark, following an unrelated affordable-housing announcement, said she would not attend any such gatherings during the provincial election campaign that begins in mid-April. Voting day is May. 14.

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"Historically, I don't know if there has ever been a premier that has participated in the local debates," she told reporters, adding it would be a departure from tradition for her to attend such meetings in her Vancouver-Point Grey riding.

Former premier Gordon Campbell, Ms. Clark's predecessor as MLA for Vancouver-Point Grey, did not attend all-candidates meetings during his time as representative of the riding.

"I am very much looking forward to as many debates as possible with the leader of the opposition. I really think that's where British Columbians are going to get a chance to see my vision and Mr. Dix's vision."

She said she was looking forward to a "healthy competition of ideas" with Mr. Dix.

Ms. Clark said she would send surrogates to future local debates. Andrew Wilkinson, the B.C. Liberal candidate for Vancouver-Quilchena, attended the UBC meeting, but organizers declined to allow him to speak because he is not the Point Grey Liberal candidate.

Mr. Dix's office said he will be participating in some debates in his Vancouver-Kingsway riding as he seeks re-election, though it's unclear how many his schedule will allow him to get to.

Ms. Clark won Point Grey in a 2011 by-election after she captured the leadership of the B.C. Liberals. She got 49 per cent of the vote compared to 45 per cent for her nearest rival – New Democrat David Eby.

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Mr. Eby is running again in the May general election.

On Wednesday, he said he understood there are "special circumstances" for Ms. Clark as premier that would prevent her from attending every all-candidates' meeting.

"It's strange she is not attending any," said Mr. Eby, who noted that Mr. Dix is attending some despite his provincial campaign responsibilities.

But he suggested Ms. Clark's approach may be doing him a political favour. "It makes my job easier to tell people in the community it's time for a change when the other candidate is not there to provide their perspective."

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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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