Top of Mind - January 31, 2011

Who does provincial Liberal leadership frontrunner Christy Clark represent?

Last week, we observed Kevin Falcon, who is also running to succeed Gordon Campbell, has become the champion of the establishment. Meanwhile, fellow contender George Abbott has become the champion of the disgruntled, as well as rural residents. But who does Ms. Clark represent? There are federal Liberals supporting her campaign team. And some of them may hope to reassert the Grits' position within British Columbia's governing party - which has steeply declined since 2001. But many of them are not necessarily doing so out of partisanship but because they are part of Ms. Clark's personal network.

That network has also won her the support of media and business personalities such as Larry Bell, Wendy Lisogar-Cocchia, Gerry Martin, Pamela Martin, Bob Rennie, John Sheridan, Gwyn Morgan and Peter Wall. But those elites don't constitute a support base - no more than the "families" Ms. Clark has claimed she represents.

Instead, it's possible her core constituency is moderate former and current provincial Liberals who have felt disenfranchised by Mr. Campbell's governance of the party and want substantial internal change - perhaps looking nostalgically back to the way things were before the 2001 and 1996 elections or even the 1993 leadership contest. But, then again, it's also possible Ms. Clark's core constituency is simply herself.

What are Ms. Clark's principle vulnerabilities?

The most obvious angle of attack would seem to be Ms. Clark's connection to those involved in the controversial privatization of British Columbia Railway Co.'s assets. But many of her competitors have their own connection to that deal - having been cabinet ministers at the time it was made.

So Messrs. Abbot and Falcon, as well as Mike de Jong, might find it politically impossible launch such attacks which, any case, would be blunted by the absence of substantially new information about the controversy.

That doesn't, however, mean Ms. Clark is invulnerable. The comparative shallowness of her policy proposals and her status as a political tourist could all be used as handholds to tear her candidacy down.

What are Mr. Falcon's chances of winning the Liberal leadership?

According to an Ipsos-Reid Corp. poll released last week, the former health services minister makes more of a negative impression than any of his competitors. This, despite what seems to have been an aborted effort by his campaign to soften Mr. Falcon's hard-edges.

Nevertheless, the Surrey-Cloverdale MLA has the most public support from business leaders, as well as the backing of many major cabinet portfolio holders. So it would be a mistake to write him off - especially since Premier Gordon Campbell's own lack of personal popularity never seemed to trouble the party's base.

After all, as noted by Global BC chief political reporter Keith Baldrey on CKNW last week, in the closing months of 2009 84 percent of that same base endorsed Mr. Campbell's leadership.

6 Comments

The core constituency of Christy Clark is young people & moderates, Sean. She represents the people, contrary to the believe of Campaign Anklebiterott.

Also Sean had the HST not happened, I'm sure Mary Polak or Mr. Kindamary Polak (aka Kevin Falcon) would win by a landslide. Christy represents the popular will, not the insiders.

She represents herself. Period

Hal, if that were true why the support?

She hasn't won an election yet. Vancouver Mayoralty race part II coming up.

Hal, I would really stop sniping at Christy Clark. It's Christy Clark who said today, “The business people that support me are really important , but so are the stay at home moms and so are the teachers and so are the bus drivers.”

Yes Joseph K, the teachers really believe that after her performance as education minister. They are words Joseph K, just words. She learned from Campbell, and she learned well. Now if you were to stop your inane praise of Christy, I wouldn't have to pour some cold reality into the mix.

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