Christy Clark in losing streak with ham-handed approach to transit, treaties, liquor reforms, and municipal oversight

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      Politicians aren't always going to get it right. And sometimes, the public holds them to impossibly high standards.

      But even the most charitable among us can't deny that Premier Christy Clark has had a dreadful week.

      On Monday (March 23), her government fired the municipal auditor general, Basia Ruta, claiming that she had obstructed a review of her office. Ruta, a former assistant deputy minister at Environment Canada, has alleged that her dismissal didn't meet principles of procedural fairness. 

      Clark came up with the idea of hiring someone to review municipal finances during her campaign to win the B.C. Liberal leadership in 2011. After just three audits and $5.2 million spent, it's not looking like a great deal for taxpayers.

      But that was fairly minor in comparison to the transit plebiscite. In their last election platform, Clark's B.C. Liberals promised that the public would have a say on new transit expenditures.

      It was a foolish idea, given that the province doesn't order plebiscites on other capital projects. The provincial government's decision to kneecap the elected TransLink board and appoint directors who rarely interact with the public has cast a pall over the chance of the public voting yes.

      If there's a "no" result, Clark will be seen as the real architect of this divisive, economy-stifling exercise.

      She'll be the transit killer in the eyes of local mayors and supporters of more transportation options. 

      It may have seemed like good politics to the premier to promise a referendum, but it has been a lousy exercise in governance.

      Next on the list is Bill 11, also known as the Education Statutes Amendment Act, which would give Education Minister Peter Fassbender more power to force boards of education to bend to his will.

      Vision Vancouver trustee Patti Bacchus told the Straight that it could lead to greater pressure to privatize public school lands.

      Treaties and liquor reforms bungled

      Then there is the disgraceful treatment of former B.C. Liberal cabinet minister George Abbott. I remember interviewing him last October about becoming chief commissioner of the B.C. Treaty Commission.

      He was excited about the prospect of bringing about reconciliation between First Nations people and the rest of society.

      Less than two weeks before Abbott was about to start, the B.C. Liberal cabinet revoked his appointment. What's worse is that the premier didn't notify First Nations leaders in advance.

      I can only wonder which businessperson or senior mandarin whispered in her ear that it was necessary to undermine the tripartite treaty process with this phone call to Abbott to tell him he wasn't being hired.

      Was it anyone connected to plans to build oil refineries or liquefied-natural-gas facilities on the North Coast? Did it have anything to do with private companies wanting to do deals with financially strapped First Nations before they had nailed down their full legal rights in the form of a treaty?

      I don't have the answers to these questions, nor does anyone else until the government comes clean on this.

      The final fiasco in the premier's losing streak this week concerned liquor reforms. She and her justice minister, Suzanne Anton, have alienated a bunch of potential B.C. Liberal supporters by turning the Liquor Distribution Branch's wholesale division into a cash cow for the government.

      There are still no discounts for restaurants, unlike in Alberta and Washington state. And only the government, not the private stores, is permitted to sell to restaurants.

      As a result of a new wholesale-pricing model that takes effect on Wednesday (April 1), some independent wine stores and private liquor stores are likely to become road kill. This will clear the path for billionaires in the grocery industry (i.e. Jimmy Pattison, Galen Weston, Brandt Louie, and Frank Sobey) to add to their fortunes by grabbing market share.

      This will help the B.C. Liberal fundraising machine before the next election as the grocery czars fill up the war chest. But it will also come at a tremendous political cost as former B.C. Liberal supporters cast their lot in with the B.C. NDP, which seems to care more about the province's emerging craft-beer sector.

      Of course, many of those craft breweries are in NDP constituencies in East Vancouver, North Surrey, southern Vancouver Island, and the Kootenays. So in the premier's political calculus, they don't matter as much as catering to the supermarket billionaires.

      But is her judgment really that sound? This is the same premier who concluded that it was a good idea to hold a transit referendum, hire a municipal auditor general, and cancel the appointment of a former B.C. Liberal cabinet minister to shepherd treaties to completion.

      Sooner or later, a majority of B.C. voters will recognize they're being led by someone who often puts politics ahead of what's the best public policy. And when that realization sets in, expect a movement to arise within the B.C. Liberal party to get rid of her.

      Comments

      26 Comments

      worst... premier... ever

      Mar 27, 2015 at 3:36pm

      d'oh

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      Just sayin'

      Mar 27, 2015 at 4:05pm

      You mean NDP hacks don't like Christy.? Thanks for that breaking news. I'm sure Charlie will nail this election prediction like he did the last one.

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      Guy in Victoria

      Mar 27, 2015 at 4:15pm

      Just sayin' say's " You mean NDP hacks don't like Christy.? "

      So according to "Just sayin'"..... everyone in BC excluding "NDP hacks" are happy with Christy Clark's performance. I'm sure he/she can prove this meaningless comment or is this another Liberal hack doing his/her job on behalf of the right wing party ?

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      Ho Hum

      Mar 27, 2015 at 6:02pm

      Nice how you blame the transit failure on Christy Clark and not on Translink itself. You guys can say all the bad things you want about her, but she handily beat your pick for Premier in the last election. That goes back to you blaming her for the failure of Translink. And NO I didn't vote for her. Try to be at least moderately fair please.

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      edoherty

      Mar 27, 2015 at 6:29pm

      Seems to me that so far our honorable premier is getting off very easy on the transit referendum fiasco. She is the de-facto leader of the No side, and the Globe has reported on the micromanagement / sabotage of TransLink under her watch with even media releases being vetted by Victoria. But so far the most people don't seem to have noticed how deeply forked her tongue is when she claims she will vote Yes.

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      Marilyn Keibel

      Mar 27, 2015 at 8:04pm

      "expect a movement to arise.....to get rid of her". We can only hope and pray this comes to pass.

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      Mac

      Mar 27, 2015 at 8:48pm

      Over 2 million 700 thousand did not vote or voted against liberals in last election.
      Over 700 thou voted 4 them this is what u get when voters stay home electoral reform badly needed!

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      Two years can't come soon enough

      Mar 27, 2015 at 8:49pm

      I'd suggest that once the premier realized Abbott was planning on taking an open and honest approach to treaties and dealing with First Nations, she decided "open and honest" just isn't how we do things around Victoria.
      Our government lack a moral compass....and that starts at the top.

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      'divisive, economy-stifling'?

      Mar 27, 2015 at 9:32pm

      Smith's pro-developer stance on the transit referendum is another example of the Straight's ongoing shift to the right. I intensely dislike Clark and have no comment on her motives. However, the 'yes' side is simply carrying water for developers. There are far better investments in transit to be made than another mega-billion dollar exercise that is essentially about creating more 'hubs' of development for the funders of Vision Vancouver and other real estate driven municipal political parties. Your paper continues to stray further and further down the path of your funders: the real estate industry (every issue of the Straight is paid for by the real estate industry).

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      Dr. Zen

      Mar 27, 2015 at 10:11pm

      Many valid reasons to vote No on the transit tax. Translink is only one.

      I find it odd with all the shrill screaming from the Yes side, that they can't justify any of the population growth numbers, guarantee the funding they require from other sources, or even consider alternative immediate measures to reduce congestion.

      Uber, telecommuting, online shopping, distributed satellite offices, subsidized student housing at UBC, etc. all help to reduce congestion at minimal cost and could have been encouraged years ago. They're not even part of the conversation for some reason.

      But none of those options affords the opportunity for Gregor and his buddies to build more rat cages ...sorry luxury condos... and further destroy the liveability of the city.

      If you spend a billion dollars and 10 years building a subway to UBC, you're going to look pretty stupid when it comes online just as driverless cars render such localized mass transit systems inefficient and obsolete.

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