VICTORIA – Premier Christy Clark says she’ll outline the Liberal Party’s election platform today less than 24 hours after British Columbians saw her playing the lead role in a folksy, paid television production where she met people in diners, at dinner tables and on rodeo grounds, where the horse she was riding took off on a wild gallop.
Clark used the 30-minute broadcast Sunday to highlight her gregarious personality, sense of humour and deep commitment to the province as she heads into an election campaign that has the Liberals trailing the Opposition New Democrats in public opinion polls.
The Liberal Party-funded broadcast showcased Clark’s people skills as she met firefighters, mothers and farmers, but recent polls have her personal popularity tied with Newfoundland and Labrador’s Premier Kathy Dunderdale as the lowest in Canada.
“I think you deserve to know exactly what I plan to do and how I plan to do it,” said Clark, at the conclusion of the broadcast. “So tomorrow (Monday), April 15, I’m releasing our platform. It’s called Strong Economy. Secure Tomorrow.”
Clark, who spent much of the broadcast explaining her goals of cutting the provincial debt, controlling spending and creating jobs, said the election campaign will lay out how she intends to guide the province to prosperity in risky economic times.
“When you look at the platform, along with our balanced budget and the B.C. jobs plan, you can see exactly where we plan to lead B.C.,” she said. “The past two years have made me a better premier and a stronger leader, so now Mr. Dix and I are both applying for the same job, the job of your premier.
“Let’s compare our platforms, our visions, our plans and our teams, then let you, the people of B.C., decide,” said Clark.
New Democrat Carole James said British Columbians who were looking for something new from Clark would have been disappointed with her television appearance.
James said if she was writing a review of the broadcast she would say it was long on campaign rhetoric and scare tactics.
It was “more of what we’ve seen before, more of the same. Attacks on us, attacks on the past, instead of an opportunity to really put the issues forward and to really debate the future not the past,” she said.
“Even the claims the premier said she was committed to — jobs growth, balanced budgets, not increasing the debt — simply weren’t true,” she said.
James said the NDP believes the Liberal budget deficit is nearing $800 million, job growth has declined by more than 30,000 jobs and the debt is rising.
Last week, the NDP said they would hike some taxes and cancel some Liberal programs to raise $300 million to pay for programs the party is expected to lay out in the coming week.
On Sunday, NDP Leader Adrian Dix said if elected, his government would ban political donations by corporations and unions beginning next January.
Clark told viewers a bit about her childhood, her cramped household and her parents — a history of living within means that she said inspired her to ensure B.C. steers clear of deficit budgets.
Clark used the half hour to suggest the Liberals have solid, effective plans to steer the province, while Dix’s New Democrats pose too much of a downside risk of sending the province back to the economic dungeon of the 1990s.
“B.C. had a tough time in the ’90’s,” she said. “Under the NDP (governments) we became a have-not province for the first time in our history. In 2001, we turned the page.”
The broadcast featured the comments of British Columbians who expressed concerns about the possibility of an NDP victory. Several said they have concerns family members would be forced to leave B.C. to find work if the NDP was elected.
“When you are exporting our children because you think they’d do better elsewhere, it’s a pretty sad state,” said Julie Marzolf.
Clark’s broadcast spent little time showing her behind a political podium making political pronouncements. Much of program had her mingling with people, asking about their families and future goals — a cup of Tim Horton’s coffee present in her hand.
Clark is even seen riding a horse at last summer’s Williams Lake Stampede.
“We went up to Williams Lake to open the rodeo and I’m standing there on the horse waving to everybody and all of these horses start galloping out,” she said. “My horse turns around — I haven’t been on a horse in 15 years — and it starts galloping out. Oh, my God, it was the scariest moment I’ve had since I became premier.”
Clark also got kudos from people with political connections.
Brad Bennett, son of former premier Bill Bennett and grandson of former premier W.A.C. Bennett, said Clark’s political instincts and leadership abilities are similar to those of his father and grandfather.
“She’s a doer,” he said.
Former B.C. Conservative MP and member of the Alberta legislature Stockwell Day warned that investment will leave the province if the NDP is elected.
“I got to see first-hand the result of NDP economic policy,” said Day, who was Alberta’s finance minister when the NDP was government in B.C. “It resulted in runaway spending, higher deficits, more debt and a big increase in taxes to try and pay for it all.”
Clark said over the past two years she has grown as a leader and the province is heading in the right direction under her Liberal government, but British Columbians are now facing a choice of continuing the Liberal direction or changing course with the NDP.
“Now we’re at a crossroads,” she said. “Do we keep moving forward or do we risk sliding back.”
The campaign for the May 14 election officially gets underway Tuesday.