Slamming the media is a routine tactic for a politician in trouble. But for B.C. Premier Christy Clark, taking a shot at the radio station where she was a prominent host before re-entering politics prompted charges of high-profile hypocrisy.
"You probably don't listen to CKNW any more," Ms. Clark told partisans at a weekend barbecue – one stop on Ms. Clark's busy summer schedule designed to connect with party members ahead of the provincial election next May.
CKNW, like other B.C. media outlets, has been reporting in detail on Ms. Clark's declining political fortunes. The opposition NDP is more than 20 points ahead in some polls, and centre-right voters are splitting between her Liberals and the provincial Conservatives.
In a blistering on-air editorial responding to the Premier, CKNW news anchor and relief talk-show host Gord MacDonald raised questions about Ms. Clark's loyalty to the station where she was host of The Christy Clark Show for about two years.
"Funny word, [loyalty]. Damned hard to earn, but easy to say, and it appears easy to piss away," he said, referring to his former colleague.
The embattled B.C. Premier has been drawing fire from some unusual parties as she tries to gain political traction. Earlier this summer, Ms. Clark pointedly questioned the validity of polls by Angus Reid Public Opinion, prompting Mr. Reid to take to the airwaves to defend his company's integrity.
At the time of her most recent remarks, Ms. Clark was trying to rally partisans against a tide of bad news for the Liberals.
"She's trying to get the party cheered up," said former Socred cabinet minister and former CKNW talk-show host Rafe Mair. "It's not much different than going to your family when you've lost a key game – or your friends – and saying, 'It isn't the end of the world. Let's all cheer up. We've got another game to play. We're going to win that if we all stay together.'"
In her speech, Ms. Clark took a shot at veteran Vancouver Sun political columnist Vaughn Palmer – "You probably don't read Vaughn Palmer any more" – and then CKNW, where she became a host after quitting politics in 2004 to spend more time with her son. She left the radio station in 2010 to seek the Liberal leadershp after Gordon Campbell quit as premier and party leader.
In his editorial, Mr. MacDonald thanked listeners for tuning in. "It allows me to feed my family. Just like your listening allowed Christy Clark to feed her son when she was a host here."
He accused Ms. Clark of mocking CKNW listeners she spoke "so glowingly" and respectfully about on air because her job gave her "a platform that raised her profile so she could jump back into politics."
Ian Koenigsfest, CKNW's news director, said in an interview that Mr. MacDonald, as is routine, was delivering his own views in the editorial.
Asked about Ms. Clark's comments, he noted "People are listening to CKNW," and said he was not distressed by Ms. Clark's jab.
"We live in a very politicized province and the Premier is entitled to make whatever comments she deems necessary and appropriate. Am I disappointed? No. I understand the reality of the political world we live in."
Ms. Clark's press secretary said the Premier was just being humorous. The remark "was done somewhat in jest," said Mike Morton, who added Ms. Clark did not think her comment would become as big a story as it has.
Mr. Mair, a talk-show host on CKNW for 19 years, said he thought Ms. Clark was off-base with her remarks. "It's one thing to hit at the station in general terms – 'I don't like the radio station' – but to hit at your audience and your former colleagues, struck me as being very foolish," he said.
"I think CKNW was pretty good to her and her colleagues were pretty good to her as well. I don't know what point she was trying to make."