McRae will remind Clark of how important new hospital is to Comox Valley

CHRISTY CLARK celebrates with fellow B.C. Liberals. - Tom Fletcher
CHRISTY CLARK celebrates with fellow B.C. Liberals.
— image credit: Tom Fletcher


Mark Allan

Record Staff

Although Comox Valley MLA Don McRae backed George Abbott in the Liberal leadership race, he said he was not overly surprised nor disappointed that Christy Clark prevailed.

“I know George and I have a lot of respect for his style and his policies, but Christy was a very, very strong candidate,” McRae said Monday. “She’s caused a lot of excitement; there are people across the Comox Valley and across B.C. that I know joined the party because they liked what Christy brought to the table.”

McRae couldn’t predict how Clark’s ascendance might affect the process to build a hospital on Ryan Road in Courtenay. He said he had previously explained to her the importance of the project for the region, adding he plans to do it again.

He expects the premier-elect will make peace with Abbott, Kevin Falcon and Mike de Jong, the other finalists for the job.

“I’m sure that Christy will make sure that George and Kevin and Mike all have a major role to play in government, not just in cabinet, but beyond. Christy’s a smart person and she’s going to take their skillsets and use them well, I hope.”

She will have to, having gone into Saturday’s leadership showdown with the support of only one Liberal MLA. Will the party get behind a new leader who abruptly left politics a few years ago?

“The reality is, you need to have a diverse range of views in the B.C. Liberal Party. They call it the free-enterprise party," McRae said.

"What makes a party strong is that there are some commonalities, and one thing Christy’s been forthcoming about is that we have to balance the budget and live within our means. As long as those fundamentals stay there and we grow the economy and provide more services for families, I think people are going to be OK with it.”

Since Clark has known ties to the federal Liberals and was known to criticize Conservatives on her radio talk show, does McRae think party members favoured her in a backlash against Gordon Campbell?

“Gordon did a lot of things really well. He was able to lead a very diverse … caucus. Anybody who can lead 48 MLAs for a long period of time – and at one stage he had 77 MLAs – there are skills that are hard to replicate.

“But, you know what? It’s not 2003 anymore. It’s 2011 and I think the people of B.C. are looking for a different type of leader. Christy’s definitely from a younger generation; like myself she’s got a young family. I think people really feel they can identify with her.

“One thing you can say about Christy – she is an absolutely great communicator.”

North Island NDP MLA Claire Trevena predictably does not share McRae’s opinion of his new leader, predicting Clark will be “more of the same.

“She was deputy premier,” Trevena noted. “She’s got a terrible record,” Trevena added, citing school closures during Clark’s tenure as education minister.

“I’m looking for the best, but I’m seeing Gordon Campbell’s shadow.”

Does Trevena take any heart from the Liberals choosing a woman as their leader?

“I think we should always have the best person for the job,” Trevena replied. “I don’t think we’ve got the best person for the job.”


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