A motherhood issue

Yesterday, Children and Family Development Minister Christy Clark resigned her cabinet position and announced she wouldn't be seeking re-election. In a scrum, which could have been - at times - entitled a sentimental journey, reporters asked her about the reasons for that decision. The following is a rush transcript of that scrum (which would have been available a lot sooner, were it not for Public Eye's more pressing Times Colonist column deadline).

Media Christy - I'm going to ask the obvious question: how hard was this decision for you to make?

Minister Clark It was a really difficult decision. I've been involved in politics for all my life. And I was a volunteer for most of it. I got first elected in 1996. So I struggled with it for a long-time. But I need to give my riding association and my party the time to be able to select a candidate and be able to put together a really good campaign in Port Moody-Westwood. My riding association annual general meeting is tonight. So I needed to be able to tell them tonight that I'm not seeking another term as their candidate.

Media Do you envision still making a return to politics at some point?

Minister Clark Well, in B.C. politics, nobody ever really goes away do they? So, I don't...

Media Well that's good sometimes...

Minister Clark I don't plan on it. I don't have any plans for that at the moment. My focus is my family. I want to make sure I have enough time for them.

Media What was the premier's reaction?

Minister Clark Well, I think the premier is disappointed. He thanked me very much for the service that I put in. And he told me he really appreciated it. But, you know, life is going to go on for him and the government. And I'm going to continue to work as a private member to make sure we're successful. And I'm going to work on the hustings wherever anybody needs me to make sure we can elect as many B.C. Liberal MLAs in the next election as possible.

Media Do you not feel you've left them in the lurch? You're deputy premier, education minister...?

Minister Clark We're seven months before the next provincial election. They need time to choose a candidate. And so I think making sure everybody had time to plan and to get ready for the inevitability of having another candidate is really the best thing to do.

Media Was your decision in any way linked to the legislature raids - that issue that your hursband and your brother have been involved with? Was there an exasperation because of that that helped fuel your decision?

Minister Clark No. If I had any sense that anyone in my family had been implicated in this, I would have resigned in January. But there's no reason to think anyone was implicated. And I think recent news has probably clarified for us that this story was probably a lot more limited that certainly initial speculation indicated.

Media Well, that's true. And the police certainly aren't investigating your family. But I'm wondering if that had any effect on you. Sort of the effect we've heard around here is we don't need this kind of stuff in elected office. Did you feel that? Because you were certainly under the spotlight and your family was under a spotlight for quite a while.

Minister Clark No. You know, sure it was a very difficult time. It's been a difficult time. And we all wish it certainly hadn't happened. But I've seen a lot of difficult times in politics. And I've been through a lot of discussion and heated debate. And I've certainly been asked a lot of tough questions. So no - that didn't contribute to it. The issue really is an issue of time at the moment for my family. And my family needs more of me than I've been able to give them.

Media Is it a tough fit - family life and politics? And people are going to look at you as one of the most prominent women in B.C. politics and look at the fit between your life as a woman and being in politics.

Minister Clark Well, I did it for eight years. I did it for three years as a mother. And I've done it for three-and-a-half years in cabinet. So, it can be done. And every family is different. So different families will have children of different ages. They may have extended family support. I mean, everybody's got a different environment that they live in. So all I can speak to is mine. And my life at the moment requires me to spend more time with my family.

Media Christy - everybody will look for political reasons behind this, when somebody of your profile decides to packs it in. I mean you're kind of there in terms of the political ladder. You're a senior minister in a government that's likely to be re-elected. So people might search for some political reasons behind this. Are there any?

Minister Clark This is a personal decision. It's not a political one.

Media Christy - in the last election you were the election co-chair for the Liberals along with Mr. Kinsella. I understand this year, Gary Collins is the co-chair along with Patrick Kinsella. When were you informed that you would not be in that role?

Minister Clark I told the premier I would not be in that role in January when he appointed me to this job. Because, when I agreed to take on what, I think, is the most demanding ministry in government I said, "Look, I can do it. But I can't do it if I don't lighten the load on all the rest of the responsibilities I have." So, we talked about the fact that I wouldn't be able to do a whole lot of the other things he's relied on me to do in the past because I really had to focus on this job. And I'm proud of what we've accomplished in the last nine, ten months in this ministry. I mean, it's been on an even keel. The planning work that we're doing on childcare has really been coming together very quickly. I met with Ken Dryden a couple days ago. And I think we're going to have a federal deal very, very soon. Which will mean we're going to be able to improve childcare for kids, for example.

Media This is a ministry that not a lot of people look forward to. It's nobody's first choice. If you were in another ministry do you think you would have made the same kind of decision you made today?

Minister Clark Probably not. All ministries are demanding. It's hard to say though. It is hard to say because this is the most demanding ministry in government.

Media If you were still education minister though - is that something you could have seen going on a little longer than what...?

Minister Clark Well, the question for me is did I want to re-commit to another four years? And I'm making the announcement today because my riding annual general meeting is tonight. And I need to be able to tell those people, who have believed in me for so long, that I'm not going to be doing this again. And I need to give them time to prepare. So, it's a question really of the next four years. And I don't know what job I'd be in, a year from now, if I decided to run again. So it's a much longer-term decision than that for me.

Media Has being in the children and families ministry itself - and what you've seen there and had to deal with there - had any impact on your thinking about your role in your family?

Minister Clark Yeah. I don't think it cannot. And I think being in education too has that same impact. Because it really does keep a parent in touch with how important it is that we pay attention to our children and that we make sure they get every single bit of support that they can - especially in their early years. I mean, Hamish is doing great. He's thriving, he's happy, he's doing really well, he's in pre-school. But I do think he needs more of my time. I think government is going to be able to find another politician but Hamish is never going to be able to find another mother.

Media Have you explained this to Hamish?

Minister Clark He's conscious of it. But he's a little too young...

Media What's his comment.

Minister Clark Hamish has not comment.

Media Is the fact he's going to be going to school soon a factor in this too?

Minister Clark He won't be at school for a few years. But, I think, in general, the issue is now right? The issue is over this next year, over this next two or three years, am I prepared to say I'm going to serve another four years in government. And I don't think you can run in an election, and ask all those people to put their faith in you - including your constituents - if you don't intend to go the distance. And I'm just not able to say I'm prepared to do that given that Hamish needs more of my time.

Media Is there a way politics can make room for mothers? I mean, a lot of people are going to read this decision as saying there's no room for mothers in politics. Is there some changes in this system - should people recognize we've got to make room and make some adaptations?

Minister Clark Well, I think we need to do that in all walks of life. Absolutely. Not just politics. But it is a very demanding job if you've got a little person around the house. But, you know what, I've done it for three years. Lots of other moms have done it. I mean, Linda Reid is still in politics and she's got two kids. And Sheila Copps went the distance for a long time. So there are lots of examples of moms who have been very successful and gone on for a long-time in politics. So this is a personal decision for me. It's what does my family need now. And they need more of my time.

Media What does this mean for a ministry which is still going through a restructuring and is now going to have its third minister in the space of a year?

Minister Clark Well, the premier is going to make a decision about when to replace me. I've told him my intention is to resign. So he may take a few days to make sure he finds the right person and the transition is smooth. So I'm absolutely committed to making sure my part in that works. This is a personal decision. And I had to make the right personal decision for myself and my family.

Media But you inhereted a ministry that was in quite a bit of disarray following the Doug Walls incident, Minister Hogg's resignation. What is your successor going to be inheriting from you?

Minister Clark Well, I think we got this ministry on a pretty even keel. Things are functioning I think as smoothly as they have been in the ministry ofr a long time. We are, for the first time in a long-time, thinking about future planning and what we need to do next. We've got an excellent deputy, great staff. So I think my successor will inherit a ministry that's in pretty good shape. And, in fact, we are, in terms of financial management and those kinds of accountabilities, probably leading government now. So we've come a long way.

Media Christy - when you informed the premier that you didn't want to be the co-chair of the election campaign again were you thinking of, at that time, of resigning down the road or were you just thinking lighter workload at that point?

Minister Clark At that point, I told him that I couldn't take on the ministry of children and familie role if I had a whole lot of other committee commitments - and if I had a whole lot of other campaign commitment to do. I knew, when I took this on, that it was going to be a really demanding ministry. And it was going to require a lot of my time and a lot of my attention. So we had that discussion then. And I wasn't thinking about whether or not I was going to seek re-election at that point. I certainly wouldn't have accepted an appointment to cabinet if that had been the case.

Media Don't you have a relationship with the premier where you could have asked for a lighter workload - health or something? Facetiousness aside, don't you have a relationship with him where you could have backed away without having to resign?

Minister Clark My family commitments are such now - and my family circumstances are such now - that they need me now. And the question is really about the next four years. Do I intend to seek re-election. And I don't know what jobs I would be doing after the election. But I knew that I couldn't make that commitment to the people of Port Wood-Westwood and the people that worked so hard to get me elected every time. So that's what drove this decision. And that's why I'm making my announcement today.

Media You're a new parent. How tough has the last two or three years been? The two cities. The daycare here. How are you doing it? You must be superhuman. How tough was it and how many months has the lead up been to this decision?

Minister Clark It's been tough. But lots of working moms have a really tough balance to find right? Everybody's got their own circumstances...

Media But was it really tough those years when you could hear him crying across the hallway and yet you had meetings in this office?

Minister Clark Well Jim, I think I was really lucky to be able to have my son across the hallway and be able to be in touch with him for those first few years of life. And, if I wanted to stop by between meetings, I could. Not that many women can say that right? The travel is difficult. But the fact that I was able to have my son in my office was pretty amazing. And I have the premier to thank for that because he made that possible.

Media Christy - what about a jump to the federal scene?

Minister Clark No. You know, it's a long way to Ottawa. And if I think this has been a demanding job and a demanding commute to keep your family commitments, then Ottawa would be a hundred times worse.

Credit where credit is due: A big thanks to Broadcast News reporter Scott Sutherland, who kindly provided Public Eye with access to his recording of this scrum, which we were not able to attend.

4 Comments

How pathetic. If you can't get the job done on time, don't blame the Times Colonist.
Get a life.

MEOW!!! On a serious note however, deadlines are deadlines. And Sean, I don't mean to nitpick, but given the generality of the "media" in the transcript, whoever asked this question,

"Do you not feel you've left them in the lurch? You're deputy premier, education minister...?"

Should know that she was removed as Minister of Education. I can conclude that this was part of the "rushed" transcript.

To Susan:

I would contend that being a reporter and also managing, writing articles for and posting to this website, that Mr. Holman does have a life, and a good reputation throughout the business. I would also say that if you don't appreciate his work or his commentary that perhaps you find another medium to grumble at.

I don't always agree with Mr. Holman or alot of the posters on here, but a healthy debate and discussion is food for the mind, whereas comments like "get a life" exhibit a complete lack of forethought or decorum on the part of the poster.

My $0.02 on the matter......to my knowledge no other media outlets, even those with budgets that are likely three to four orders of magnitude larger than that of PublicEye, are going the extra mile and providing the whole enchilada with raw feed transcripts like this. That, in and of itself, is good enough for me and indicates that what is being provided is valuble.

Sean, thank heavens we have you in Victoria to let us in behind the scenes and behind the endless "spin" that veils everything going on in our own overnment!

As a Mom who made the tough choice of giving up a career for motherhood, I do wish her well and hope Ms Clark enjoys her new role. However, having watched her put politics above the health, safety and wellbeing of our most vulnerable children, youth, adults and families for four years, I can't help but wonder at the political reasons for her sudden exit.

At Education, Ms. Clark's leadership formula was to gleefully bait the BCTF to make political hay and to distract us from the devastation happening in our public schools under her watch. At MCFD, her main job was to save her administration's political face by throwing a few minor mea culpas to the media before deepening the wall of secrecy around the Ministry and continuing (at a glacial pace)with Doug Walls' disastrous restructuring program. The alternative -- pulling the plug and facing the true extent of the crisis -- would have confirmed the frightening depths of her predecessor's folly.

As Clark keeps telling us, MCFD was always a challenging portfolio. But she and former Minister Hogg turned a challenge into a disaster: slashing already-inadequate budgets by $170 million annually and then compounding that unprecedented stress on the system by diverting tens of millions more to finance Walls' harebrained restructuring schemes. They ignored their central election promise to "stop the endless bureaucratic restructuring" and they ignored all their own experts -- repeatedly.

The current MCFD mess is entirely the result of recent provincial policy and mismanagement -- notwithstanding all the new spin about MCFD being such a hopeless and stressful job. Ms. Clark knows that MCFD will remain a mess as long as her Cabinet colleageues insist on staying the current course of cuts and endless bureaucratic restructuring. This promises nothing but political grief for whoever's holding the bag at election time and I'm quite sure she knows that.

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