Les Leyne: The victory lap’s over for Christy Clark

Les Leyne mugshot genericKELOWNA — The B.C. Liberals’ long victory lap after last year’s upset win may have finally come to an end at this weekend’s convention.

In a speech on Saturday, Premier Christy Clark fondly reminisced about the “Comeback Kid” win that virtually no one saw coming. She credited everyone in the room for pulling it off and congratulated them for overcoming the worst odds the party ever faced.

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She also revealed that party strategists briefly considered matching former NDP Leader Adrian Dix’s flip-flop on the Kinder Morgan pipeline, because the NDP actually gained in the polls after he got off the fence and came out against turning Vancouver into an oil port.

 But she nixed the idea.

“I said ‘No.’ We will not change our position [it was, and is, non-committal, pending review] … We will not let our beliefs be determined by pollsters.”

While the celebration of the win continued inside the convention, the problems are piling up outside. The education system will start sputtering to a halt this week with teacher walkouts. Various groups are deeply unhappy with the ALR changes. There’s still nothing definitive to show the promised LNG bonanza will materialize. And a number of specific moves — such as the upcoming closure of the Victoria Youth Custody Centre — have drawn fire.

The party was determined to ignore most of those problems, and anything else that got in the way of a good time.

Although Clark insisted she likes to see Liberals arguing important public issues, a number of potentially contentious resolutions — on issues such as grizzly-bear hunting, ferry fares, addressing poverty strategy — were ditched.

Only 18 made it to debate stage and most of them were motherhood calls for things such as balancing the budget or writing a northern economic strategy. Some of them were so mundane no one even bothered to speak against them.

They found a few minutes to spend on housing affordability, mental health and child care. And all the ideas put forth as resolutions on those topics were rejected. (So was a call to consolidate south Island local governments.) B.C. Liberals are a lot more interested in keeping taxes down than on hiking spending on social needs.

“We are not the party of tax more, spend more,” she said later. “We premise all of our beliefs on the fact we need to grow the economy, keep our fiscal house in order and keep taxes low in order to look after people.

“Once we’ve grown the economy, landed some LNG jobs … that’s going to mean we’re able to act on some of the aspirational things people are talking about at this convention.”

Off the policy stage, work is getting underway on political strategy. The next election is only three years away and a number of campaigners within the party are starting to look forward, rather than back. There was talk of a big new social-media push and a briefing from a U.S. strategist on the science of getting out the vote. Prominent Vancouver realtor Bob Rennie was introduced as the new fundraising chairman.

And Clark reverted to campaign mode in taking some shots at the NDP for always thinking they know how to spend people’s money better than they do.

“They don’t understand B.C. I think they still don’t understand why they lost: They want to get stuck on No. People want a government that will get to Yes.”

Liberals will tell and retell themselves the story of the 2013 win privately until the end of time. But they don’t have a lot of time to keep dwelling on it in public.

This week, the endgame begins in another typically bitter struggle with teachers. Clark revealed no strategy on how it will be dealt with, other than more talk at the negotiating table.

And there are other challenges ahead. The victory lap is over.

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