Growing up on the mean streets of Montreal, we had a saying: “Fight me, fight my gang.”
On her first day in the Legislature this week in the premier’s chair, Christy Clark sent the NDP a similar message that she does not intend to be a one-man gang like her predecessor.
Gordon Campbell had a reputation as an autocratic leader, not much interested in consensus building inside cabinet. Some called him a bully. In fact, some of the weaker members of his cabinet were so scripted that they had trouble with their newfound freedom when Clark took over and kept them on.
At the recent Liberal convention, one political insider remarked that some of Clark’s ministers, still gun shy from their days under Campbell’s thumb, were acting like they had “battered-wives syndrome.”
Fast forward to the premier’s first question period this week with NDP leader Adrian Dix chomping at the bit. Everyone was expecting him to go after Clark on the HST, shaky ground for the Liberals. Instead, Dix went hard at Clark on government funding for witnesses at the Wally Oppal missing women enquiry. Not exactly front page news.
Dix said the government had chosen to deny funding to Downtown Eastside women’s groups attending the inquiry and he asked the premier “to overturn this decision and make sure those voices are heard.” Like that was going to happen.
In her exchange with Dix, Clark remained engaged and sympathetic.
“The member knows the government is funding the families to be able to be heard at the commission … It seems to me to be our obligation to do that,” she said.
For reasons that escape me, the NDP decided to squander their first kick at Clark by asking the same question over and over. And, when NDP MLA Leonard Krog tried to link the Oppal inquiry to the Basi/Virk legal-fee fiasco, the premier refused to be drawn in. She let her Attorney General Barry Penner field the same question ad nauseum for the better part of half an hour. Clark got to her feet just once more out of respect for deposed NDP leader Carole James who made a pathetic stab at righteous indignation.
Clark’s obvious confidence in her A-G reminded me of the days when former Socred premier Bill Bennett would encourage his cabinet to take responsibility for matters in their domain.
On her first day in the House, Clark also signalled that she will eagerly embrace bipartisan issues to keep the Opposition off pace.
In debate over a motion to support the efforts of Sea Span in its bid to be part of Ottawa’s $33-billion National Ship Procurement Strategy, the NDP harped that the government is not doing enough to take advantage of the initiative.
The premier opted for the high road. “Surely … we do have common cause. Surely, when it comes to creating jobs, we can find some common ground … we can stand together united as British Columbians and as a Legislature that has traditionally been deeply partisan and talk about the things that we care about together.”
Clark knows that Dix & Co. have zero interest in “common ground” and “bipartisan” hand holding. They want war and the premier wasn’t biting. M