Despite coming out in support of George Abbott last week, Cariboo Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett says she’s happy to line up behind new Liberal party leader and premier designate Christy Clark.
Clark won the party leadership Saturday with 52 per cent of the vote over Kevin Falcon’s 48 per cent. Clark, Falcon and George Abbott had made sojourns to the Cariboo in the waning days of the leadership campaign. Clark’s win marked the first time the party had voted for its leader using a new system where each riding in the province received the same amount of votes.
The system was designed to minimize membership disparity in riding associations that, under the one member, one vote system, had given the more populous urban ridings greater power to determine party leaders.
It took three rounds in the Cariboo-Chilcotin riding for Christy Clark to come out on top with 54 per cent of the vote.
In the first ballot in the local riding George Abbott led with 41 per cent, Clark followed with 39 per cent and Kevin Falcon was third with 13 per cent; on the second ballot Abbott again held the lead with 43 per cent, Clark was second with 42 per cent, and Falcon a distant third with 14 per cent; the third ballot saw a dissolution of Abbott’s camp allowing Clark to gain the lead with 54 per cent and Falcon take second with 45 per cent.
“We have a new leader and we will move forward and get the job done,” MLA Donna Barnett said when contacted Monday morning.
Barnett, who was at Saturday’s convention, said she has no difficulty working with Clark despite her stated preference for Abbott and his policies, in particular those related to agriculture, farming and ranching like predator control.
“I really believe that Abbott had the best policies for that but we can take those forward and there’s no reason why government can’t still deliver on them. I’m not saying other policies weren’t good; I’m just saying Abbott’s were the strongest in relation to our region.”
Barnett said while industry and economic development should continue to be a cornerstone of economic growth, agriculture is what will sustain us. Her other concern is depleted forestry resources due to the pine beetle kill.
“I think we have to focus harder on that for rural British Columbia,” she said. “I’m sure Christy will. Her mandate is for change and her mandate is Families First and those things apply to families.”
Barnett believes Clark has a “great chance” of forming the next government but stressed the leader is only one member of the team.
Williams Lake Chamber of Commerce president and Liberal party member Walt Cobb supported Clark from the beginning.
Cobb thinks one of Clark’s strengths was that she was a party outsider especially through the time when the HST was implemented.
“Christy Clark was not painted with that brush,” he said. “She doesn’t have to be defensive because she wasn’t there. Others would have been perceived as defending the decision.” Cobb, who worked with Clark during his time as a Liberal MLA, said now it’s time for the public to hear Clark’s policy ideas.
“She’s a strong lady with good ideas and is a good speaker,” he said, adding he hopes the factions from the different leadership campaigns will dissolve and line up behind Clark.
Independent Cariboo North MLA Bob Simpson is prepared to give Clark the “benefit of the doubt.”
He suggested Clark’s priorities should be providing clarity on the HST vote, preparing a budget and program priorities and undertaking a byelection that would give her a seat in the legislature.
“I think we need a bit of a time frame from her as to how she sees things happening,” he said. “My hope would be that she’s true to her word and that we’re no longer going to have an autocratic, dictatorial government … .”
Understanding Clark’s rural agenda is also imperative, said Simpson, noting issues like funding for the natural resources ministries and how she will proceed on the Prosperity mine file are important.
“It’s talking to us about how she sees rural B.C. benefitting from her leadership,” he said.