03/05/2013 03:18 EST | Updated 05/05/2013 05:12 EDT

BC Budget Vote Passes Amid Liberal Crisis

VICTORIA - Premier Christy Clark's government survived a key budget vote Tuesday prompting the premier to declare her Liberals strong and united after enduring a stormy period over a leaked ethnic vote winning strategy.

But the Opposition New Democrats said Clark's attempts to build optimism within the Liberal ranks reveal a government that has lost touch with British Columbians and is only concerned with the May 14 election.

"Sadly, I don't think British Columbians are out of the darkness," said NDP Leader Adrian Dix. "The fact is we have a Liberal government that does nothing but campaign. At a certain point, you've got to start governing."

It was the New Democrats who leaked the controversial ethnic vote outreach plan that has so far resulted in the resignations of Clark's former deputy chief of staff Kim Haakstad and Multiculturalism Minister John Yap.

The Liberals also appointed Clark's deputy minister John Dyble to conduct a review of the plan, which suggested recruiting taxpayer funded Liberal government workers to co-ordinate an ethnic voter strategy with the Liberal Party in time for the May 14 election.

The leak generated days of NDP criticism over the so-called ethnic-wins strategy, which involved capitalizing politically on apologies for historic injustices.

As an example, the strategy described the Liberal government's 2008 apology for the 1914 Komagata Maru incident in Vancouver as an ethnic win in the Indo-Canadian community.

Almost 380 people from India were denied entry to Canada and their ship stayed harboured in Vancouver for months before returning to India with most of its passengers. Upon arrival in India, a riot erupted and 22 passengers died.

Despite the widespread political fallout from the leaked strategy, the Liberals confirm they are working on an apology for the Chinese head tax, where Canada imposed a fee on Chinese immigrants at the turn of the century.

Dix said he doesn't expect the NDP to drop any more bombshells connected to the strategy document, but he's awaiting the finding's of Dyble's review.

Clark, who has apologized profusely to the multicultural community for the contents of the report after initially issuing a written apology, moved to squelch earlier suggestions she may have to resign herself following Dyble's report.

"I know as I said in the house (Monday), I had never seen the document. I had no involvement in the creation of the document." she said.

Clark said she will take steps to ensure the government is held accountable once Dyble's review is complete.

"Not every day is easy in politics and I don't know if I've had an easy day since I became premier. But that's part of the job and taking those tough days is what I got hired to do," she said.

Clark said the 45 to 38 budget vote in her favour Tuesday signals the start towards the government meeting its financial commitment of delivering a balanced budget next year.

The premier met with her cabinet Sunday in a rare weekend gathering where she and members of her inner circle attempted clear the air over the ethnic vote document. The year-old strategy angered many in the multicultural community and concerned members of Clark's caucus who interact daily with constituents from all walks of life and ethnic backgrounds.

Cabinet members left the meeting saying they were united in their support for Clark despite the ethnic vote uproar.

Clark met with the entire Liberal caucus Monday and while some members raised concerns, including caucus chairman Gordon Hogg and Surrey-area MLA Dave Hayer, they emerged from the meeting backing Clark.

"I think we know it's been a difficult couple of days for our caucus, but in passing the budget today what we demonstrated is we are staying focused on our goals and our agenda which is making sure we're building a better British Columbia," Clark said.

Liberal MLA Kash Heed, who had been critical of the ethnic vote strategy, was the only Liberal not in the legislature for Tuesday's budget vote.

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