Sunday, February 27, 2011

Christy Clark voted B.C. Liberal leader

Christy Clark waves after being elected as the party's new leader in Vancouver. ((Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press))

Christy Clark voted B.C. Liberal leader

Radio talk show host and former deputy premier Christy Clark has won the B.C. Liberal leadership on the third ballot and will succeed Gordon Campbell as premier.

Clark, who billed herself as a Liberal party outsider, won the party's leadership contest by beating former cabinet ministers Kevin Falcon, George Abbott and Mike de Jong.

It took three rounds of the preferential ballot to decide who would replace Campbell, who resigned last fall over his party's disastrous unveiling of the harmonized sales tax.

In a speech following the announcement, Clark addressed the people of British Columbia.

"I want you to be my partners in change in Victoria. I want you to be my partners in bringing open government. You can count on me to listen, you can count on me to engage, and you can count on me to make sure government really does include you. I have specific ideas on how to do these things but I also need to hear from you," she said.

"My top priority will be to put families first. In British Columbia we are blessed with families of all shapes and sizes, families as diverse as our great province. This is the foundation of our communities. This is the building block of our future."

Clark said her government's top priorities will be job creation and fighting poverty, and she vowed to focus on innovation and rural B.C.

The Liberals have not said when Campbell will step down and transfer power, but the departing leader was nowhere near the leadership convention Saturday night — organizers noted he was in Washington, D.C.

More than 57,000 Liberal party members cast their ballots, out of nearly 92,000 eligible voters.

Liberals pledge unity

All three unsuccessful leadership candidates — Kevin Falcon, George Abbott and Mike de Jong — said the B.C. Liberal Party would unite under Christy Clark, despite a heated leadership race.

Abbott told CBC News he was proud of his campaign, had no regrets and wouldn't change anything but the result.

"It is absolutely imperative that the B.C. Liberal Party be united as we move forward over the next year towards, hopefully, a May 2013 election," he said.

"I think we've got a lot of work to do in terms of the public and rebuilding trust and confidence in our party … so we've got lots of work to do."

Falcon, who finished second, pledged his support for Clark.

"We're a big family and when you have a race in a family it creates what looks like divisions but at the end of the day, we are a family," he said.

"It was a very close race, it was exciting. I think that's great for our party, our government, and Christy won and I congratulate her completely and we'll all get behind her now and make sure we keep this great family together."

Mike de Jong said he had no regrets and would run again in a heartbeat.

"I mean, why wouldn't I? To have the chance to travel around, to meet with British Columbians, to watch the party grow and contribute to that, to compete with three ... talented individuals who all brought something to the debate, sure. Why wouldn't I?"