BRITISH COLUMBIA

Christy Clark Loses Riding, Seeks Volunteer To Give Up Seat

05/15/2013 08:57 EDT | Updated 07/15/2013 05:12 EDT
CP
VANCOUVER - After leading her BC Liberals to a stunning election win, only to lose her riding in the process, Premier Christy Clark is now faced with the task of finding a way into the provincial legislature — a manoeuvre that will require one of her caucus colleagues to give up their own seat after a hard-fought campaign.

But observers suggest it will be little more than a formality, with possible volunteers expected to emerge before long.

Clark lost her seat in the riding of Vancouver-Point Grey to New Democrat David Eby on Tuesday night, even though her party won 50 of the legislature's 85 seats. The provincewide results defied pollsters, who predicted an NDP majority government early in the campaign.

"I don't think there will be any shortage of people offering to vacate their seats," Norman Ruff, professor emeritus of political scientist at the University of Victoria, said in an interview.

The party will want to find a safe riding for Clark that is held by someone who won't be key to rebuilding the party, said Ruff. The Liberals might also look to a veteran who has a pension and won't lose out financially for resigning, he said.

Ruff said he's already heard several possibilities, including veteran Linda Reid in the riding of Richmond East, Gordon Hogg in Surrey-White Rock, or Ralph Sultan in West Vancouver-Capilano.

Ruff said a rookie might volunteer to show loyalty to the party, with the hope of receiving some sort of future "payoff."

"I would expect they will leave it to people coming forward," said Ruff, adding the party would only "quietly" raise the issue with caucus members if none of the volunteers are satisfactory.

Richard Johnston, a professor of political science at the University of British Columbia, said one Vancouver-area Liberal who is sure to keep his job is Andrew Wilkinson, elected for the first time in Vancouver-Quilchena. Wilkinson is a licensed doctor and a practising lawyer who was once the deputy minister at the ministry of economic development.

Johnston called him "a big catch for the party."

"They can't ask him to step down," he added.

The candidate will likely be somebody who has either been around for some time and is willing to move on who won't get a cabinet posting, predicted Johnston.

Johnston wondered whether there are friendly Liberal supporters in the business community who could offer a consulting job — real or honorary — or even if Prime Minister Stephen Harper could help out.

Stockwell Day, a former federal Conservative cabinet minister who publicly supported Clark during the campaign, said the premier will likely win whichever riding she chooses to run in.

"There will be a bylection somewhere," Day told CBC News. "She will win that seat back."

Day said there's no question Clark won Tuesday's election for the party.

Ruff, the University of Victoria professor emeritus, said Clark has some time to figure out her next step — but not a lot. He said he expects the Liberals will want to call a fall sitting of the legislature to deal with the budget and may even recall the legislature earlier.

Clark's problem isn't unique to Canada or even B.C., said Ruff.

He noted John Oliver, the Liberal premier in 1924, lost his seat when a protest party called the Provincial Party entered the race.

"They managed to defeat both the premier and the leader of the opposition," he said.

William Lyon Mackenzie King, the longest-serving prime minister in Canadian history, was also defeated in his own riding in 1924 and 1945 and forced to run in byelections, said Ruff.

In 2000, former Canadian Alliance MP Jim Hart resigned his Okanagan-Coquihalla seat to allow Day, the party's leader, to run for a seat in the House of Commons.

About two years later, Ezra Levant, a Day supporter, refused to step aside so the party's new leader, Stephen Harper, could run in a byelection in the riding of Calgary Southwest.

Levant then changed his mind, paving the way for Harper to run.