Is Premier Christy Clark going to be like Ralph Klein or Kim Campbell?

Sometimes when political parties are discredited after many years in power, they throw the leadership baton to a woman, who gets thumped in the subsequent election.

We saw that back in 1991 when the hopelessly divided B.C. Social Credit Party selected Rita Johnston as premier. She lasted seven months in office before her party was annihilated, winning only seven seats in the election.

A third party emerged in that campaign, the B.C. Liberals, which siphoned off many votes from traditional Socred supporters. The B.C. Liberals captured 17 seats and formed the Official Opposition.

Then-premier Johnston lost her seat to future NDP cabinet minister Penny Priddy.

Two years later, it was Kim Campbell's turn. She took over from two-term prime minister Brian Mulroney.

The party was divided, with many Tories feeling that Jean Charest should have won the leadership race. Campbell went into the 1993 election riding high in the polls, but her party was nearly obliterated on election day.

The Progressive Conservatives won just two seats, and the leader lost Vancouver Centre to Liberal Hedy Fry.

Compounding the problem for Campbell was the rise of two new parties: the Bloc Quebecois in Quebec and the Reform Party of Canada in the western provinces. The Bloc, led by the charismatic Lucien Bouchard, won 54 seats. Preston Manning's Reformers took 52 seats.

The female-leader jinx happened again in 2002 when the Vancouver NPA nominated Jennifer Clarke as its mayoral candidate. This was after the party had controlled city hall for 16 years, and was seen as tired and out of touch.

Clarke and her party were wiped out in the municipal election, thanks in part to a third party created by former NPA politicians Art Cowie, Nancy Chiavario, and Alan Herbert.

Clark also faces nascent right-wing rivals

In B.C., Clark may face the prospect of one or two rising right-wing parties siphoning off votes from the B.C. Liberals.

The Conservative Party—supported by former premier Johnston as well as Conservative MP John Cummins and long-time Reform and Canadian Alliance MP Randy White—is positioned to attract votes from those who think Clark is a left-wing Trojan horse (which is also exactly how they viewed Kim Campbell).

Compounding Clark's problem is the pesky B.C. First, another right-wing party run by some of Bill Vander Zalm's friends, who participated in the fight against the B.C. Liberals' harmonized sales tax.

If some right-wing businesspeople decide to cough up some money to give either B.C. First or the B.C. Conservatives a chance to compete in a few constituencies, it could spell the end of Clark's premiership. The anti-NDP vote will be split among different parties, just like in 1991.

It's worth noting that many of the province's most politically engaged business people were backing Clark's rival, Kevin Falcon, in the B.C. Liberal leadership race. They've already demonstrated that they're not big fans of Clark.

Is Clark another Ralph Klein?

However, Clark could survive if she continues emulating Ralph Klein, who won the leadership of the Alberta Progressive Conservatives in 1992 and remained premier until 2006.

Like Clark, Klein ran as the candidate of change and had virtually no caucus support. Also like Clark, Klein had maintained ties in the past to the federal Liberals. In another eerie coincidence, Klein, like Clark, had vast experience in broadcasting, working as a television reporter before entering politics.

Both Clark and Klein are renowned for their senses of humour. And as politicians, Clark and Klein played up their populist images, conveying the impression that they're ordinary folks, unlike most other elected officials.

They also both made a big production out of wanting to hear from the people, even though Clark, as education minister, refused to meet with a group of parents and educators concerned about funding cuts. Klein came to be known as "King Ralph" because he was such an autocrat.

In the end, Klein turned out to be one of Canada's most right-wing premiers, notwithstanding his former ties to the federal Grits and his man-of-the-people persona. He's now a senior fellow at the Fraser Institute, a right-wing, Vancouver-based think tank.

Clark will probably also try to cater to her party's right wing to stave off defections to either the B.C. Conservatives or B.C. First.

Given the rising strength of the far-right parties and the tired state of the B.C. Liberals after so many years in office, it's easy to see how Clark probably won't last too long as premier.

Maybe we should start getting used to hearing the name Premier Dix. Or Premier Farnworth. Or maybe even Premier Horgan or Premier Cummins.

Unless, of course, Clark's impersonation of Klein catches on with the electorate. That's the wild card, and something her opponents will have to prepare for.

Follow Charlie Smith on Twitter at twitter.com/csmithstraight.

Comments (15) Add New Comment
Ken Lawson
Probably a Kim Campbell but much smarter, but this is a perfect opportunity for the unhappy conservatives in the Liberal coalition to move over to the BC Conservative Party, NDP will not be a player in the next election no matter who they chose and they know it. Robertson and the Wing Nut Council going down in Nov 2011. How do you see it playing out?
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Vizio
I am blown awat at the decision of Liberal delegates, the coalition is finished already...many people said as much last night at VCC. The photo ops were all orchestrated to save face, but everyone was quite stunned by this.

Not only that Clark cant put together a meaningful sentence.
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Dave C.
She is a former minister under Gordon Campbell, that makes her a Gordon Campbell clone, same policies, same corruption, same lies and deceit. It is just a matter of time, then they ALL will be gone. I bet Gordon Campbell will be a Senator before long.
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karperp
BC Conservatives are a joke, judging from their links to political hacks like Johnston and Brian Peckford. Also look at the federal CONservatives as see that someone like CUmmins supporting the HST, massive deficits, raised fees (aka taxes), and they really aren't that fundamentally conservative (small-c) anyways. I'd rather have a real NDP gov't under maybe Farnworth than a fake Liberal or Conservative one. The Liberal bridge has been burned, the only question is how long Christy tries to hold onto power. Especially seeing as it took her all of 20 minutes to break her promise of calling an election before 2013. The idea of her running in Gordon Campbell's riding is going to tar and feather any of the supposed "change" she claims to represent. She "listens" to the public, then takes all seven sides of an issue. It worked in winning a leadership race, but won't to run a province. This is going to be a painful ride.
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danR
Another Campbell. Gordo 2.0.
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ursa minor
Having lived in Alberta for 32 years, including 7 under Ralph Klein as Premier, I can tell you that any comparison of Ralph Klein to Christy Clark simply doesn't work. Alberta politics are not a battle between Left Wing and Right Wing, they are a race to see who can be the most Right Wing. When Klein and the Conservatives won the 1993 Alberta elections, they promised "massive" spending cuts.

Their opponents, the Alberta Liberals led by Laurence Decore, promised "brutal" cuts. With nothing to choose between the two parties, the vote played out like football or hockey's "Battle of Alberta" - Decore and the Liberals took Edmonton and Northern Alberta. Klein and the Tories took Calgary and the Rural South, which on Alberta's gerrymandered electoral map, took them to a substantial majority.
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politically incorrect Albertan
Christy is just going to become another puppet Premier to the Socialist Republic of China which is buying middle class homes for $1 million to tear down and build palaces in their place. No need to go to war anymore to take over a country, just buy it and take over the real estate. Beautiful China or BC will be filled with Chinese loyalists who preside over the pipeline transporting bitumen to China.

Meanwhile Canadians can't afford a home here and are sleeping on the streets. Maybe the Mayor is on to something in wanting more social housing for Canadians who can't afford to live in their own country.
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Taxpayers R Us
lol @ NDP-you wussies are desperate
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earthtoET
What is the common, tainted, denominator behind the failed leadership of Rita Johnson, Kim Campbell and soon to follow their fall to reality: Christy Clark?

Master manipulator: Patrick Kinsella
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Xtina
That Christy won is bizarre! Falcon had most of the bui$iness community before the leadership was even called. Methinks it's a set-up to usher in the NDP--so they can be responsible in ameliorating the mess left by Gordo & Co....
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glen p robbins
Ralph Klein's party in Alberta, the Progressive Conservatives dominated politics. He wasn't a federal Liberal in a provincial liberal conservative coalition. He is a male in a male dominated sport.

He was a populist - we have no idea what Christy is - she won on the basis of NDP ridings and second votes - is she the new NDP leader?
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Steve Y
Xtina- I don't think anyone in the NDP can win this election, They have no ideas and no support. People hate the HST... once it is gone, the NDP are hooped. A monkey could run the liberals and it would still be better than the best NDP candidate.
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Roger Flowers
Ken Lawson - Kim Campbell's IQ ("smart") is likely 30 points higher than Christy's. Kim Campbell's is very well educated, Christy Clark's education is not the same.

On smarts I doubt very much if Christy could last one minute with Kim Campbell in a debate. Christy has her own smarts, but it is more cunning and guile and not as an individual who might understand public policy and implications.

If Kim Campbell were leading the BC Conservative party I believe they would be more popular than the BC Liberals within 2 months of her taking the leadership.
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Kim Campbell fan
To pick up on Roger Flowers comment, I recently saw Kim Campbell on Bill Maher's talk show and came away very impressed. Not only did she hold her own but she schooled the other guests on climate change and the history of climate science: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wKF5ZgBzick.
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welldoneson
She's going to be like Christy Clark, smart enough to pretend to accomodate extremist voices from all points of the political spectrum without actually implementing anything they "demand".
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