Sunday, June 10, 2012

All you need to know about British Columbia politics: Victoria's secret, falling faster than a drunk on a skateboard and nude kitesurfing with Richard Branson!

Christy: Here's your to-do list

Reach out, be bold, rebrand, attack the NDP - and build a time machine;Victoria's secrets

By Michael Smyth
Sunday, June 10, 2012
Premier Christy Clark needs to do a lot of work to get the struggling Liberal Party back on the Winning track. (Photograph by: Jason Payne, PNG Files, The Providence)

It was just another day, just another brutal opinion poll for Premier Christy Clark, whose personal approval numbers keep falling faster than a drunk on a mountain bike.

But do you think B.C.'s ever-smiling "jersey girl" will let the pollsters - or the pundits - get her down?

Think again.

"Let's get to work!" a feisty Clark encouraged Liberal supporters at a fundraising dinner, where the ex-radio hotline host predicted the greatest comeback since Lazarus.

Can Clark really stop her personal train wreck and put the Liberal Party back on the rails? It's hard to believe, especially when that new poll shows her personal approval numbers down an ugly 10 points.

But veteran political insider Bob Plecas thinks Christy should go ahead and dream the impossible dream.

"Look, she's one of the most gifted communicators we've ever had in that job," Plecas told me. "I think she's even better than Bill Vander Zalm was."

Gulp! I'm sure the desperate string-pullers in the Liberal backrooms cringe at the comparison. But Plecas is right that The Zalm, though driven from office in scandal, still had a tremendous gift of the gab.

But Christy needs more than a smile and quick quip of the lip. She needs to do stuff. And just to prove not all the pundits are mean to her, I present Christy Clark's to-do list:

Reach out to the malcontents: Christy Clark's biggest problem is the bleeding of Liberal support to the upstart B.C. Conservative Party. She must bring ticked-off Tories back into the tent.

"She needs to keep a light in the window, to show the people who left that there's a still a home for them," Plecas told me.

How does she do that? By getting a spine on the policy front, for one thing . . .

Be bold: To stop the hemorrhaging of right-wing support, Clark should propose some right-wing policies.

For example: why just privatize the province's liquor distribution system? If she really wants to make a right-wing splash, she could promise to let consumers buy beer and wine in grocery stores.

You say you're really a small-c conservative yourself, Christy? Then prove it.

Rebrand the party: Aside from the Conservatives, Clark's other big problem is the Liberals - or at least the tattered Liberal brand.

That's why Clark wants to change the party name at this fall's "open convention," where the Libs are inviting members of rival parties to help form a new political movement.

Will voters see through such a gimmick? Probably. But the Liberal brand is badly tarnished. Clark needs a new one.

Throw some bricks at Di While Christy Clark's approval numbers plunge downward, NDP Leader Adrian's Dix's ratings are going in the other direction.

Clark needs to stay on the attack against the surging Dix, though Plecas thinks she should let others do the really dirty work.

"She needs to talk about Dix's record, the NDP's dismal decade in power, the fudge-it budgets," Plecas said. "But she shouldn't get nasty. She can leave that to others."

Challenge the unions: Clark has already hinted she wants to do something about the gap between public-sector and private-sector wages.

Maybe she'll poke the government unions in the eye by indexing their future wage hikes to wage rates in the private sector. Or maybe she'll take a hatchet to public-sector pensions.

A fight with the union bosses - defended to the hilt by Dix - could be good politics for her.

Back the pipeline: Clark looks weak as she waffles and wavers on the proposed Enbridge pipeline. She could enhance her appeal to right-wing voters by supporting the controversial project. But before she does that, she must negotiate a major revenue-sharing agreement with Alberta. Otherwise, she might as well stay on the fence.

Work her patootie off: Plecas thinks Clark should cancel her vacation plans and hit the road from now till election day.

"The party should tell her, 'You get two weeks with your son and two weeks at Christmas," Plecas said.

"Other than that, she should be at every barbecue and coffee klatch in 50 key ridings, talking to as many people as she possibly can."

Invent a time machine: If all else fails, Clark could always figure out a way to manipulate the space-time continuum and travel back to March 14, 2011.

That's the day she was sworn in as premier. She was doing great in the polls. And the B.C. Conservatives weren't on such a roll. It's the same day she should have called a snap election - but didn't.

No time machine? There's always hope, prayer and a lot of hard work. For Christy Clark, it will take all that and more to pull off her personal miracle.

Coast guard lifesaver?

The B.C. government had been trying > since last month to get federal Fisheries Minister Keith Ashfield on the phone to officially protest the planned closure of the Kitsilano coast guard station.

"I specifically asked Minister Ashfield to reconsider his decision," said AttorneyGeneral Shirley Bond, after finally getting him on the line. It only took 10 days to set up the call.

I suspect Ottawa will now thoroughly ignore the B.C. request. It's time for Christy Clark to turn up the heat on this one.

Clark keeps after Clark

Former NDP premier Glen Clark was > ticked off at Christy Clark's claim that she was the first B.C. premier to visit the Philippines. Glen Clark went there twice in the 1990s!

Christy is clearly trying to woo Filipino voters, but Glen Clark said many Filipinos live in NDP-held ridings, and a lot of them don't like how the Liberals have managed the health-care system.

"A lot of Filipino people work in health care and they bear the brunt of government policy," Glen Clark told me.

msmyth@ theprovince.com
twitter.com/ msmythnews
theprov.in/ michaelsmyth

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