Local MLAs pay tribute to Christy Clark
By Ian Cobb/e-KNOW
Christy Clark resigned as leader of the BC Liberal Party and Westside-Kelowna MLA July 28. Her resignation will be official on August 4.
“I am certain that British Columbia’s best days lie ahead. Because British Columbians can, through hard work, determination, and perseverance, achieve anything they set their minds to,” she said during her announcement.
Clark, 52, leaves B.C. politics again having been the seventh longest serving Premier, and second woman to hold the position. However, Rita Johnson only served seven months as Premier in 1991.
Her departure, while hailed by those in opposition, has sparked many tributes, including by the two MLAs serving the East Kootenay; Kootenay East MLA Tom Shypitka and Columbia River-Revelstoke MLA Doug Clovechok (both Liberals).
“Christy’s leadership abilities are second to none. From firsthand experience I can say that she is the type of leader who did everything she could to empower others to succeed. She celebrated with you the successes you achieved and help you find learning in the failures that you found,” Clovechok told e-KNOW. “She is a marvellous communicator who could relate to anyone in the room. From a CEO of international company to a rancher on a horse, she made them feel like they counted for something. I remember hearing at a function the president of a small Kootenay company nervously asking her, “what do I call you?” Her answer was simple and to the point; “please call me Christy.”
MLA Shypitka, newer to the provincial political scene than Clovechok, who ran and lost to Norm Macdonald (NDP) in the 2013 election, said he found Clark’s resignation to be painful.
“I’m just starting to wake up to the painful reality that yesterday our former Premier, Leader of the Opposition, and one of the nicest, most honest and hard working individuals who I have ever met has resigned from political office. I didn’t get much time to work with her as many have but if there was one thing that the hospitality industry has taught me, and that is how to quickly read a person’s net worth… and Christy had a lot of net worth,” Shypitka stated.
“She will undoubtedly go down in B.C. politics as one of the greatest leaders ever, first elected female Premier and first to get re-elected. However, what the accolades may not cover is her as a person. To me, she made me feel important, and valued. She was always positive and loved to fight the fight. She is a proud single mother and she carried the torch for women and minorities. She lit up a room whenever she walked into one and everyone could feel her constant energy.”
Christina Joan Clark was first elected Member of the Legislative Assembly in 1996, for the riding of Port Moody-Westwood (Burnaby Mountain).
After serving a term in opposition, she was re-elected in 2001 as a member of Gordon Campbell’s NDP crushing juggernaut, of which she also served as Deputy Premier. Clark would also serve as Minister of Education and Minister of Children and Family Development before leaving politics in 2004, citing the need to spend more time with her only child, Hamish, and take a swing at becoming mayor of Vancouver (she lost the nomination to Sam Sullivan who would later become a MLA in her government.)
She was enticed back to politics by party members when Gordon Campbell not-too-elegantly departed as Premier and captured the leadership in 2011. She was sworn in as Premier on March 14, 2011.
A series of scandals began to take their toll on Clark and the Liberals leading up to the 2013 election and pundits from A to Z declared the NDP under then-leader Adrian Dix to be shoe-in victors. Not so. Clark pulled off a stunning victory, though she personally lost her Vancouver-Point Grey seat to David Eby. A month later she captured a legislative seat in a by-election in the Westside- Kelowna riding.
In the May 2017 election she led her party to the slimmest of victories; too slim – 43 seats for the Liberals, 41 for the NDP and three for the Green Party. The subsequent coalition formed by the NDP and Greens spelled doom for Clark and the Liberals and on June 29, she lost a confidence motion on the throne speech and her government collapsed, making NDP leader John Horgan the 36th Premier of B.C.
“Today we thank Christy Clark for her service to British Columbia. We take up the call of public service because we want to make this province a better place. While we represented two different political parties, Ms. Clark and I are united in the belief that, working together, we can build a better future for British Columbia and the people who call this place home. As an MLA and as Premier, Ms. Clark fought passionately for what she believed in. I know she will take that passion and energy to her next opportunity. I wish her all the best in her future endeavours,” Horgan said in a July 28 statement.
Likely the only time they’ll openly agree on something, Clovechok echoed Premier Horgan.
“Christy Clark is a person who cares deeply for the people of British Columbia and the province she loves so much. Her tireless work ethic and enthusiasm are contagious. Her positive outlook on all things is inspiring. Who else but Christy Clark would have dared stare a 20% election polling deficit in the face in 2013 and say “I like those odds” and then turn around and win with more seats than had been held before, he noted.
“Christy Clark led a political success story that would become the benchmark for other Canadian provinces to aspire to. With her consecutive balanced budgets, record employment rates, AAA credit ratings, visionary infrastructure projects and some of the most effective social programs in Canada like the Single Parent Employment Initiative, B.C. became the economic power house of Canada,” he said.
Also observing her successes as Premier and party leader, Shypitka also defended Clark, who endured constant criticism, especially in social media.
“I sometimes see the name calling and false accusations on social media and it makes me painfully laugh… I shake my head in utter amazement at the crap that public officials sometimes have to go through to help people to the best of their ability; but I don’t want to focus on that today. Today is about reflection and gratitude to a wonderful lady,” he said.
“Christy stepping aside was a shock as I know we would have won another election with her. However, Christy showed the ultimate act of leadership yesterday and that was putting her party before herself. She may have lost her political position in life yesterday but she cemented her integrity, honour, and sense of commitment to all British Columbians for eternity,” Shypitka said.
Clovechok said Clark laid groundwork for other women to follow to politics or elsewhere and she had a profound impact on him personally.
“She is a role model for young women showing that anything is possible and if by chance a ceiling is encountered then blow a hole in it and keep on moving! If we are lucky there are people who show up in our lives who have a profound impact on the way you think and the way you act. For me that has happened twice. The first was Dr. Jane Goodall and the second, Premier Christy Clark.
“The first time I spent one-on-one time with Christy Clark was not long after her leadership victory. We were travelling from a function in Cranbrook to one in Kimberley. I remember being blown away by how this new Premier, who with a simple smile and a few words, made me feel like I had known her all of her life. That is the Christy I came to know that day and it was the same Christy that I said goodbye to this past Friday morning when she, with dignity announced that that she was leaving.
“Above all things Christy Clark became my friend and I going to miss her and I believe that history will record her as one of Canada’s greatest Premiers. I am so honored to have been able to serve with her. Thank you Christy,” Clovechok concluded.
“I wish Madam Premier (I still want to call her that), and her son Hamish, the best of luck in their future plans. I know she will still be close geographically but more importantly she will always remain close to all of our hearts,” Shypitka added.
Former Kootenay East MLA Bill Bennett, who served as a senior cabinet minister in Clark’s governments, agreed with Shypitka that his former peer and friend would have won another election as leader of the Liberal Party but praised her leadership in making the hard decision to resign.
“I believe she would have won the next election. An incredibly selfless decision by the best leader I’ve ever worked with in my life. Politics is a thankless task. You must have crocodile skin and passion for helping people plus the courage of your convictions. A Premier must have 10 times as much of all that as a MLA. And in return, she got crap and abuse on social media and constant criticism from the media. We do this work because we believe it is important and we are apart from our families and grow thick hides to fend off the constant negativity because frankly very few people will do it. From Beth and I to Christy, thank you for your leadership, passion and sacrifice. Enjoy yourself now,” Bennett stated in a Facebook post.
Lead image: Premier Christy Clark came to Kimberley in April 2013 to help Doug Clovechok campaign. She spent several minutes having an animated chat with a local girl who gave her a hug when she said goodbye. Ian Cobb/e-KNOW file photos