Ex-politician Gordon Wilson says Christy Clark could conceivably win by building big L Liberal party
Embattled B.C. Liberal premier Christy Clark has a critical decision to make.
It’s one that may spell the difference between a victory or a crushing defeat in next year’s provincial election, according to former B.C. Liberal leader Gordon Wilson.
It’s choice whether to preserve the already splintered coalition of federal Conservatives and Liberals in the province that was held together by Clark’s predecessor, Gordon Campbell. Or to build what Wilson describes as the “Liberal option” for British Columbia.
“I would suspect that Christy is going to have to decide whether or not she’s going to try to patch together and hold together this coalition of Conservative-Liberal interests in British Columbia,” Wilson, who also served as an NDP cabinet minister, told the Straight in a recent phone interview.
“Or if she’s going to decide to do what many capital L liberals would like her to do—and that is actually build a Liberal option that denounces some of the issues that Campbell took on,” Wilson continued, “recruit aggressively people who are seen to be more centrist, more populist politicians, and advance an agenda that is unique and different, and enhance that agenda by tabling a budget that is very, very progressive [and] that really addresses the fact that we are facing extremely difficult economic times, both continentally and internationally."
“It would be an end to any notion of a coalition,” Wilson also said. “From my point of view, Christy Clark, when she took over the leadership, she had a very real opportunity to jettison off the Conservative element and build the Liberal option.”
By doing so, a new and truly Liberal party will capture the centre and left centre, undercutting the B.C. NDP, he added.
“It does allow Christy Clark to forge a new agenda,” Wilson stressed.
But Wilson also underscored that Clark is running out of time.
“I don’t see any indication that she’s doing anything other than simply riding out her term at this point,” he said.
Wilson also noted that with the exception of Shuswap MLA George Abbott, most of the members of Clark’s caucus who declared they are not running in 2013 are “people who would be comfortably sitting in a Conservative party".
“Unfortunately for Ms. Clark, what she’s done by trying to recapture this conservative element is that she has weakened her image among the public in terms of her being somebody new and different,” Wilson said.
Although Clark has consistently slipped in polls, Wilson believes that 2013 isn’t a done deal yet.
According to Wilson, there is still one person who could actually stop the B.C. NDP from achieving what now appears to be a smooth ride next year.
“The person who has still got the opportunity to do it—ironically as it might sound and people might think I’m smoking something funny...I think that Christy Clark still has the best opportunity if she plays her cards right, but she consistently doesn’t do that,” Wilson said. “It’s frustrating for people.”