Clark’s Resignation Sets the Stage for Change

By: Justin P. Goodrich, LL. M.

Today marks the last day for Christy Clark as leader of the BC Liberal Party, having announced just one week ago that she would not only be stepping down as party leader, but also as the MLA for Westside-Kelowna.

After six-years as Premier, Clark and the BC Liberals lost a confidence motion on June 29th, thus allowing the NDP – with assistance from the BC Greens – to form government.  To be honest, I thought Clark would have resigned that very day.  Perhaps I’m a little old fashioned, but I see the roll of a party leader a lot like the captain of a ship; if something goes wrong on-board, no matter whose fault it is, it is the captain who is ultimately responsible.  Clark, however, didn’t seem to share that opinion thus – announcing boldly, on numerous occasions – that she would remain on and serve as Leader of the Official Opposition.

Speaking for myself, I personally couldn’t imagine going from being the Premier to the Leader of the Official Opposition.  Moving beyond the notion that resigning immediately would have been the principled thing to do, I don’t know how anyone could go from BC’s top job to the opposition benches?  Regardless, Clark has now resigned and it’s certainly for the best.

Though publically BC Liberal MLA’s and staffers are using terms like ‘surprised’, ‘shocked’ and ‘disappointed’ with respect to Clark’s sudden resignation, most everyone I have spoken to have expressed a tremendous sense of relief.  Indeed, one need not be a BC Liberal insider to know that an ever-growing segment within the party was becoming more and more disenfranchised with Clark.  Subsequently, this very sentiment could have easily led to a toxic situation that could have resulted in a backlash from the party membership; and, perhaps, even members of the BC Liberal caucus?  However, with Clark’s resignation the party has now been spared this unnecessary drama and it can immediately begin working towards a leadership contest – and, more importantly, a new chapter for the party.

Not withstand the above sentiments – and before I share my thoughts on what’s next for the BC Liberals Party – I will give Clark credit where credit is due.  Under her leadership Clark led the BC Liberals to a stunning victory in 2013, helped BC create the strongest economy in the country (inclusive of five balanced budgets), and did hold the province’s top job for just over six-years.  Thus, regardless of how one may feel about Clark personally with respect to her attitude, ego, leadership style, etc., one also cannot help but acknowledge that her track-record was commendable.

For The Record…

There are certain values that I have always held dear – two of those are loyalty and principal.  However, I also believe that loyalty should never be blind, and that principle should always be paramount over politics.  The challenge with those values is that they can come at quite a cost.

Politically active since I was a teenager, I first joined the BC Liberal Party when I was just 14 years old.  However, over the course of the past 20+ years I have twice resigned my membership.  The first time I resigned my membership I was all of 18 years old and was – by virtue of my age and lack of life experience – somewhat naïve.  However, the second time was only five years ago; that time I knew I would face some significant backlash – and boy did I ever!

So… why am I sharing this?  I’m sharing this because though I would likely make the same decisions all over again, I’ve also come to realize that sometimes ‘hanging-in-there’ and working towards making changes from within could be more advantageous.  It is for that reason that I re-joined the party roughly four years ago; though not an easy decision, as I didn’t particularly care for Clark as its leader.  However, I knew that a season of change was on the horizon, and now that that season has arrived I am looking forward to playing my role as a party member to facilitate change.

In the coming months the BC Liberal Party will embark on a leadership contest; one that allows for both MLA’s and non-MLA’s to put their names forward to lead the party.  This process, however, needs to be about more than just finding a new captain for the ship, so to speak.  This new chapter must be about reshaping the party – both with respect to its platform and its values.

Speaking first to its platform, that process has already begun.  Though those who are more cynical will say that the Liberals final Throne Speech was nothing more than feel-good political jargon, I would like to think that it was the first step in acknowledging that British Columbian’s are looking for a different kind of balance between economic, social justice and environmental issues.  Turning now to values, this is where the next evolution of the party must take place.

The BC Liberals have been known for many years now as a top-down organization; one that has lost its fundamental, grass-roots values.  As a result, stigmas around elitism and special interests have come to form a disturbing narrative.  As a result of these perceptions the party requires a fundamental shift in the kind of leader it must elect if it hopes to regain its status as government in the next election.  As to who that leader may be?  Well, I have got some thoughts on who I’d like to see; however, I will, instead, focus on the kinds of attributes that individual should have.

First-and-foremost, the party needs a leader that will inspire.  One who – with authenticity and humility – can demonstrate a true commitment to public service.  One who values transparency and inclusion.  One who believes in genuine collaboration instead of a benevolent autocracy.  Finally, a leader who – despite our ‘adversarial system of government’ – will work across party lines and make evidence-based decisions.

In short, a new vision and a new kind of leader will help ensure that the BC Liberals will once again form government, thereby implementing a platform that will be in the best interests of all British Columbian’s.

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