McRae an MLA with backbone: Clark

Christy Clark lends her support to Don McRae Thursday at the Union Street Grill. Comox Mayor Paul Ives is at left in the background, along with Courtenay Mayor Greg Phelps.   - Scott Stanfield
Christy Clark lends her support to Don McRae Thursday at the Union Street Grill. Comox Mayor Paul Ives is at left in the background, along with Courtenay Mayor Greg Phelps.
— image credit: Scott Stanfield

Scott Stanfield

Record Staff

One-time deputy premier Christy Clark made a return visit Thursday to Courtenay after a recent stop during her campaign for premier of B.C.

This time, she lent her support to Don McRae as a recall campaign against the Comox Valley Liberal MLA hits full stride.

Clark said recall is not about the job McRae has done as an elected official. Were that the case, she said no one would be campaigning against him.

"Recall is about people who want to overturn the results of the last election. It's as simple as that," Clark said before a crowd at the Union Street Grill & Grotto. "To target Don McRae and an MLA who's done a great job is just wrong. That is not what the recall legislation is intended for."

However, she said the campaign is drawing attention to McRae's efforts on behalf of Valley residents, such as securing $8 million for the college and $500 million for the hospital.

"Don has been working so hard to make sure this community has the support that it needs to make it be a great community, to be a place where everybody not just wants to be but where everybody can be. The work that he has done has made a very real difference, and that's why I'm here today to support him."

McRae agrees recall has been like "a silver lining for me.

"I've had more exposure on provincial and local press than ever before," said McRae, who described the recall campaign as a "covert operation.

"It is a gift that keeps on giving."

He returned Clark's compliments in the buildup to the Feb. 26 B.C. Liberal leadership vote.

"People like Christy are telling us what they want to see this province become. They are proud of the past but they see a future that is going to be so much more exciting."

Clark would like to see MLAs representing communities to the premier to the legislature, as opposed to representing the premier in their communities.

"We need a Don McRae-style of MLA across the province," Clark said. "We need more MLAs with a backbone to stand up for their communities."

She said McRae's supporters have a "crucial role" in making sure he continues as area MLA. As for those involved in recall, Clark hopes they get "run out of town."

McRae said he was a fervent advocate for the hospital when he ran for MLA. During the early part of his tenure, he had to "play a lot of defence" as tough decisions were made in the best interests of the Comox Valley and the entire province.

One of those tough decisions was introducing the harmonized sales tax, which recall proponents say is the crux of the campaign. It intends to pressure government through the recall of sitting MLAs to either cancel the HST or hold the September referendum sooner.

Recall campaigns are allowed 18 months after the last election. If after 60 days the proponent obtains signatures of 40 per cent of voters in a riding, the member no longer holds office. The local campaign needs 19,346 signatures to succeed.

Recall organizer Kathryn Askew is a former teacher of McRae's who spearheaded the local anti-HST petition.

McRae is considering legal action against the recall group, which he said is spreading misinformation. According to McRae, the group says it has collected upwards of 12,000 signatures during the HST petition period in the spring while Elections BC says the number is closer to 10,000. Askew said Elections BC disallowed 2,673 signatures for various reasons.

McRae hosts an anti-recall rally Saturday at the Florence Filberg Centre. Two of Clark's competitors in the bid for premier, Surrey-Cloverdale MLA/former health minister Kevin Falcon and former Parksville mayor Ed Mayne, are to attend.

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