Premier Clark will be watched closely

Christy Clark is B.C.’s new premier. How will that affect Langley and the rest of the Fraser Valley area?

Clark is definitely a Vancouver-based premier, as were predecessors Gordon Campbell, Ujjal Dosanjh, Glen Clark and Mike Harcourt. She is likely soon going to be a Vancouver MLA, as it is expected she will run in Campbell’s Vancouver-Point Grey seat. He is expected to resign soon after she is sworn in as his successor.

Her practical knowledge of this area isn’t as strong as is the case with her closest contender for the job, Kevin Falcon. In her stint on CKNW as a talk show host, she on occasion showed a startling lack of understanding of the South Fraser area. She defines it, primarily, as just another part of Metro Vancouver and doesn’t seem to understand some of the unique circumstances here, such as appalling lack of transit, pressing need for new schools in areas like Willoughby and health care challenges. Her knowledge of the rest of the Fraser Valley is somewhat suspect as well.

Her first challenge is to unite her party. Just one MLA supported her leadership bid, Burquitlam’s Harry Bloy. If he doesn’t get into cabinet, he’s not going to be pleased.

All but one of the six South Fraser Liberal MLAs backed Falcon, who is almost sure to stay in cabinet, likely in a very senior position. I’ve heard finance mentioned repeatedly, and suggestions that he could become the point man for the pro-HST sales force.

He may wish to stay in health, the biggest-spending ministry, where he was prior to the leadership race.

Rich Coleman is sure to stay in cabinet as well. He is one of the most competent ministers and he is very loyal to the party. He is also the current government house leader, in addition to overseeing gambling, housing, policing, ICBC and many other things. He will give Clark’s cabinet some much-needed stability. Expect leadership candidate Mike de Jong to stay as well in a senior post.

Clark has suggested she may have a smaller cabinet. She is sure to want some new faces in cabinet as well.

The B.C. Conservative Party may have some new life with Clark’s victory, if she does not keep the coalition united. That could mean more seats in Surrey and other parts of the Fraser Valley could go NDP in the next election. That could be the difference between opposition and government. The Port Mann Bridge toll issue, in particular, has the potential to be a game-changer in many of these seats.

Residents will be anxiously waiting to see what Clark says about things like the Port Mann tolls, transit expansion, schools in fast-growing areas of Surrey and Langley and health services. She doesn’t have much time. Even though a provincial election is theoretically two years away, there are issues like the HST referendum looming.

Clark will find out that being premier is far more challenging that being a talk radio host, or even a cabinet minister. B.C. residents will be watching her closely, none more closely that those living in Langley and other Fraser Valley communities.

– by Frank Bucholtz, editor of The Langley Times