Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Hockey Mom Stuns Crowd

 Christy Clark Becomes B.C's New Premier

I stood among well heeled superbly coiffed Liberal Party members wearing flash turbans and downtown Harry Rosen suits. We were waiting in the middle of Vancouver’s new convention centre for the third ballot to be read. Several media crews roamed the hall like seagulls after chum. The convention comprised a portion of the 95,000 registered Liberal voters, many of whom were at home watching on television. Then the winner of the leadership election was announced on the big screens. There were some scattered cheers but mostly it was a sound of stunned gasps. A divorced hockey mom had just become the Premier of the province.  

No one from the Cabinet had backed her candidacy, and only a backbencher from the inside caucus had crossed the line for her. The new Premier had Pamela Martin, a former television news anchorwoman, as the lone public figure endorsement.

A tony Liberal stood in front of me and spoke to no one in particular. “Now watch their faces. All these people will have to pretend they are pleased.”

Indeed, the losers in the election put on a happy face at centre stage, checking their anguish at the door. The hockey mom who ran on a ticket of making life better for families will move to Victoria with her young son. She’ll be only the second female who has served as Premier.

The Liberal Party and the province is in the hands of someone whose previous government experience as an MLA was her biggest weakness. After she left government under a cloud, she lost a bid for mayor of Vancouver and her most recent job was working as a radio talk host. Going into the race for Liberal Party leader her advantage was that she was not tainted by Victoria.

She replaces a Premier who was sent packing after the insiders decided he had crossed a bridge too far. He ran the government from a cloister then barricaded himself inside a vault from which to rule by secret authority. His minions ran errands and did the dirty work while the former real estate developer posed as an environmentalist running a transparent government. Then he began creating policy from press releases and a palace revolt broke out.

As one gentleman in his 80s told me, the previous Premier was enabled by all his cohorts in government and should have left government after he was caught driving drunk. “You can blame everything on the people who surrounded the former premier, because he was delusional. Drink does that to a person, yet these people made it all happen for him. Some of the people running for Party leader were little more than errand boys for a man who was out of his mind. Christy doesn’t carry any of that baggage.”

With the vacancy in the Premier’s office four men and a woman put their names in the hat as candidates in what was to be a brief wink-wink campaign. But when the hockey mom decided to run for the job the election turned into a horse race she won by a nose.

At the convention and again at the victory party at the Wall Centre she gave everyone the speech they came to hear: “Change Begins Tonight”. Then she turned toward a long line of people who would remind her that they had helped turn certain defeat into a narrow victory. Some had been volunteers and others lent their sizable reputations to turn heads and open doors to the candidate. Now everybody wanted their pound of flesh. A guy next to me watched the faithful lining up for a handshake.  “All Opportunists.”

This week Christy Clark will be among the first to open the books and witness what went on in Victoria over the past decade. After she gets a few briefings on house cleaning she will be a different person by the end of the day.

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