Coleman praises Clark, will be interim leader but won’t seek job

PENTICTON — Rich Coleman, who will become interim leader of the B.C. Liberals next week, says he was both saddened and surprised by the resignation of Christy Clark as leader.

“I was very emotional and surprised, absolutely, because I love her as a leader. She’s the greatest person I’ve ever worked for,” Coleman told reporters in Penticton where the B.C. Liberal caucus had been meeting since Wednesday.

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Clark announced Friday that she is stepping down as party leader and MLA for Kelowna West effective Aug. 4.

Coleman, standing in front of the B.C. Liberal caucus and fighting back tears, said the party’s executive has 28 days to announce its plan to find a new leader. The entire process, he said, will take anywhere from three months to a year.

Coleman, MLA for Langley East since 1996 and who hails originally from Penticton, said he will not seek the party’s leadership.

“I have no intention at this time to seek the leadership and if I ever did change my mind, I would step down (as interim) and I don’t plan on stepping down,” he said. “It’s obviously a very emotional time, I just found about this two hours ago.”

The shadow cabinet, he said, will be announced in the next few weeks and the priority is preparing for the fall session of the legislature.

“We’re going to be ready. You’re going to see a remarkable Opposition,” he said. “We’re going to focus on what’s important for B.C. — jobs, the economy, sending the right message internationally, tracking investment for the people of British Columbia, the people we care about, that’s our children, grandchildren, families and communities.”

When asked, Coleman said Clark had the support of caucus and it was her decision alone to resign.

“It’s a tough day for our B.C. Liberal family because we think the world of her. At some point in your life it’s time to move on and she has. I will value her friendship for the rest of my life. She’s such a remarkable person.”

Coleman said the job of a premier takes 60 to 70 hours per week and he believes Clark wants to spend more time with her teenage son and her family.

“I’m disappointed. Christy Clark was an incredible leader,” Penticton MLA Dan Ashton said. “You don’t need to look any further to what she did for this remarkable province and we are the best province in all of Canada. As you heard from Rich, she ran an incredible caucus and an incredible province.”

Coleman praised Clark’s record as premier and said she “saved the party” during a challenging 2013 election.

“What she’s given to this province should never be forgotten. I’ve never worked with anyone with more passion and love and strength of leadership in my entire life. She had a passion for the people of this province which should never be understated.”

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