Defying the polls and viewpoints of political pundits, Premier Christy Clark successfully led the BC Liberal Party to a fourth consecutive majority government in May. Although she lost her Vancouver-Point Grey riding, Clark is now setting her sights ahead on the by-election for Westside-Kelowna, taking place on July 11. If she wins this riding, she will secure a seat in the legislature. On a warm, summer morning, I had the opportunity to speak with the Premier about a number of diverse topics.
My first question centered around the loss of her Point Grey riding to NDP’s David Eby, and the Premier responded “I was working so hard to win the election all across the province, I guess
the choice was to spend a lot more time in Point Grey and lose the election, or spend a lot more time around the province and give up some advantage in Point Grey, which is what happened. So, I am happy with the outcome overall, I’m very glad we won the election and we’re able to make sure that there are going to be another four years of economic growth.”
Next, we discussed what key factors led to the Liberals securing a decisive majority government throughout the province. She attributes the economy as the leading factor, emphasizing it was her priority to grow the economy rather than growing the government.
“I think the key was that I was talking about the economy, growing the economy rather than growing government, keeping taxes low, eliminating the debt for our children. Those were things that spoke to people’s dreams for the province because we were focused on growing the economy, the NDP was focused on growing government and I think people voted based on that.”
As this is the Premier’s first mandate, and the first time she has been elected by British Columbians directly as Premier, she views this term as “a first four years.”
Our conversation turned to the upcoming by-election, in which Premier Clark is running against seven other candidates for Westside-Kelowna. British Columbians wondered why she chose this riding, rather than selecting one in the Lower Mainland. She explained her choice, “I wanted to connect the interior of the province better to the urban areas of the province, and that was what the election campaign was all about.”
“When we talk about job creation and growing the economy, we’re talking about the areas in the province that produce the wealth. Places like Kelowna, Prince George, Kamloops, Fort St. John and so, I felt it would be good to move to the interior and help make that connection even stronger because if you live in Surrey or Vancouver, you live in a forest community, a mining community, you live in a community that is dependent on natural gas, it may not be where it’s extracted, but that wealth is grown in parts of the province, outside the urban areas, is what we all depend on,” Clark adds.
Political pundits have been speculating about Premier Clark’s choice to run in Westside-Kelowna, as it’s deemed a Liberal stronghold and will ensure an ‘easy’ victory, securing a legislature seat. When asked about this, she replied “Westside-Kelowna is the cradle of free enterprise. It’s the birthplace of the values that I believe in, which are growing the economy, supporting a thriving private sector, encouraging entrepreneurship and small business. All of that thinking in British Columbia dates back to W.A.C. Bennett and the Bennett family, they represent Kelowna. This is the birthplace, the cradle of free enterprise, so it’s a natural place for me to represent because of those values.”
As the Premier had multiple interactions with South Asian community members throughout the province during her election campaign, I asked ‘What is the biggest need or demand that they put forward and how will you like to achieve that?”
“The biggest demand or need in the South Asian community is economic growth. The South Asian community is an especially entrepreneurial community, many, many small business people, many people who have come here to make a better life for their kids, who work tremendously hard to try and get ahead, they depend on economic growth to succeed, depend on growing our economy and keeping taxes low so they can have more money in their pocket.”
Vancouver was chosen as the inaugural host city for TOIFA and Bollywood stars and musicians descended upon the city in April to celebrate 100 years of Indian cinema over three days of extravagant events. Premier Clark faced both positive and negative reactions in regards to TOIFA, as the province committed $11 million to promote and stage TOIFA, in return for international attention and garnering recognition as a trade and travel destination in India, including utilizing the Times Group’s multiple media outlets. Reflecting back upon TOIFA, I asked her ‘How successful do you think TOIFA was for the province and in solidifying future ties with India?’
“It was a crucial element of our trade strategy because you know that in India, some say they are two major religions, one is cricket and the other is Bollywood. One of the things that we know is if we want Indians to become aware of British Columbia, to be able to find us on a map, to see the beauty of the place we live in, it helps to be able to share this place with some of the world’s biggest stars and it really meant that all eyes in India will be focused on Vancouver and British Columbia. That’s a huge advantage for us, you think about the Times of India, 90 million people every day go to the Times of India newspaper, website, radio station, TV station, this is part of a huge marketing strategy to introduce ourselves to the country, and that’s how you grow trade, is first of all you make sure people can find you on the map,” she concludes.
Our conversation now turned to learning more about the woman behind the title – to really find out ‘Who is Premier Clark?’ We know she’s a working mom with an extremely busy schedule, but how does she find the time to balance family life, especially with her son Hamish? She discusses motherhood and says “I find the time,” and cites an example, during her current campaign in Kelowna, Hamish comes with her and at the end of the day, they spend quality time with one another that includes activities like going out on the lake. Premier Clark shares that she doesn’t think she’s different from many families in the province, who are working hard to raise their children.
“You do the best you can to try to find the balance, you probably worry most of the time that you’re not finding the balance, but that’s the nature of things when you’re working hard and I think that’s true with the vast majority of parents out there, I don’t think I’m that different.”
What activities does Clark like to do in her spare time? She responds with a laugh, “When I have some spare time?” She continues saying all of her time is spent either working or with Hamish, but activities that mother and son do together include beach or lake time, where they can get into the water, hiking and of course, as is routine with most mothers, Clark attends Hamish’s sports games, where she is in the bleachers cheering him on. An interesting tidbit that I learned was the Premier is an avid runner, who runs 5 kilometers on a daily basis. As a non-runner, I was quite impressed but the Premier remained modest saying “I’m not a particularly accomplished runner, I [just] do it every day.”
As most individuals have a mentor or some form of inspiration in their lives, this holds true for the Premier, who cites her parents as her mentors. Her father was a public school teacher, while her mother was a stay-at-home mom. “They both really worked hard all their lives to raise all four of us, scrimped and saved, made tough decisions and most of all, they made sure we knew that they loved us and that they would be there to support us if we ever needed anything.”
You can hear the sentiment in her voice, as she continues to talk about her parents, “We didn’t have a lot of money, but we had everything we needed. They taught me a lot about how important it is to sometimes make tough decisions and how important it is to always stand up for things that you think are right – even if people disagree with you, you need to stand up and try and always do what’s right, no matter how much criticism that means, so those are lessons that I learned from my mom and dad. We all are our children’s most important teachers, that was another thing they taught me that I will always be my son’s most important educator in his life, and that is the biggest responsibility I will ever have, even bigger than being the Premier.”
Although the Premier is a public figure, who is constantly in the spotlight, I wanted her to describe herself and asked, ‘If someone didn’t know you, how would you describe yourself in a few lines?’ She thought about it for a moment, then responded, “I would say I’m resilient and tough, but I also have a big heart and I love to fight for the underdog – that’s just who I am.”
With a momentous victory, all eyes now turn on Premier Christy Clark and her majority government to see if they can uphold and deliver all the promises made to British Columbians during the election.
She reflects on this, and explains “In four years, people will hold me to account for what I said I was going to do and what I actually accomplished, so to me, the accountability rests with the people, the voters and citizens of British Columbia, are going to decide if I kept my promises and I hope at the end of four years, if there is one thing people say about me is that I was willing to make tough decisions and as a result of those tough decisions, we are all better off, our taxes are lower, balance our budget, we’re beginning to eliminate our debt and that we’re growing our economy and creating jobs. That’s what I hope people will say about me at the end of four years. I know no one is going to argue that I was perfect, ‘cause I will not be perfect but I’m going to do my level best to deliver on the things I said I was going to do.”