Ahead of the BC election, the Daily Hive editorial team has interviewed all three party leaders, to find out who they are, discuss the issues you care about most, and put your questions to them.
Our third interview was with Christy Clark, BC Liberals leader, who spent half an hour with us, discussing everything from affordable housing to her omnipresent gold BC necklace.
Well, the incumbent BC Premier. But also…
Clark was born in Burnaby. Her father was a teacher, who ran unsuccessfully for office. Her mother, originally from Scotland, was a therapist.
The youngest of four children, Clark studied religion and politics at SFU, the Sorbonne, and the University of Edinburgh, but did not graduate.
Following her father’s political ambitions, in 1996, Clark won the seat of Port Moody-Burnaby Mountain for the BC Liberals.
Five years later, she became Education Minister and Deputy Premier in Gordon Campbell’s administration, but in 2005, she resigned to spend time with her son.
Clark became a radio host–but in 2011, she returned to provincial politics, winning the BC Liberal leadership, and taking over as BC Premier, as MLA for Vancouver-Point Grey.
Two years later, she led the BC Liberals to election victory, but lost her own seat. She was later elected MLA for Westside-Kelowna, when the incumbent stepped down in her favour.
Now 51, she’s served as BC Premier for six years–giving most people plenty of time to make up their mind about her ahead of the upcoming election.
“I think people are interested in the character of the people that lead them,” said Clark. “For me, it’s not always popular to do the right thing, but what’s doing the right thing is working.”
Much of the BC Liberals’ platform touts their record on jobs and the economy, and promises business as usual.
“I feel optimistic because the government’s record is really strong on job creation, economic growth, lowest middle class taxes,” said Clark. “I’m proud of the record we have, it’s not perfect but I’m proud of it.”
Missing from Clark’s list are perhaps the biggest issues in this year’s election–housing and affordability.
Clark points to the foreign buyers’ tax, the higher property tax for luxury homes, and the loans for first-time homebuyers, all launched by the BC Liberals in the last two years.
The party is also building 6,000 affordable homes, but here Clark calls out the cities for the low housing supply, saying they have failed to rezone or provide the permits.
“Everything we have been doing is on the demand side,” said Clark. “As long as the supply side is choked off, prices are going to go up.
“I know cities benefit handsomely from development charges and things that they get, but we do need a more balanced housing market.”
Clark clarifies she’s not saying voters should blame the cities in particular.
“I think ideally what will happen is we’ll be able to work together, to find a way to do this together. Because, no level of government can do it on their own,” said Clark.
“I’m going to work hard with cities to make sure that we start getting zoning right and make sure there is more rental housing, more low income, more modern income housing.”
Clark says she hasn’t stepped in before “because we don’t have the legal authority to do it.”
But it sounds like she’s planning to use provincial funding to get cities to upzone around transit hubs for more rental and affordable housing, in the style of Hong Kong.
“That’s something we will have the power to do, we are going to be doing that together and the money is going to be coming from the province.”
Clark notes there’s more to affordability than having somewhere to live.
“What British Columbia I think needs is not just a party with a plan to support affordable housing, we also need a party with a plan to support creation of more great jobs,” said Clark.
But what about those in minimum wage? BC’s minimum hourly wage is currently $10.85, the third lowest in Canada and only half the liveable hourly wage in Vancouver of $20.64.
There are about 100,000 British Columbians working on minimum wage, trying to make rent, with no hope of owning a home, in an ever more expensive province.
“That’s not an insignificant number. What I would argue is we need to create more good jobs and increase take home pay so that more people are working at higher wages,” she said.
“That’s ultimately the answer to making sure that people who aren’t earning enough are earning more….What can a government do except work to create job opportunities for them?”
Clark says she does want to keep increasing the minimum wage, but that’s not the answer.
“We want to make sure more people have the jobs to get them off minimum wage. That is the answer and that is the only answer.”
The jobs Clark is talking about are likely in the tech sector, which she says is “hugely important for us because the pay is so good.”
The BC Liberals plan to commit $87 million to the BC Tech Strategy, rising to $100 million by 2020, and overhaul government procurement to help local startups get contracts.
“We should be a test site for all the startups that have something we could use in British Columbia. Like, why shouldn’t we be their first customer?” said Clark.
“So if you have a little tech start up and you’ve got an idea that you think government can use, we want to talk to you about it and we want to see if we can use it and buy it off of you.”
Bringing more tech talent to Vancouver may also be an advantageous consequence of Donald Trump’s presidency, she says.
“[It’s] scaring some of the best and brightest away from the United States, it is our huge opportunity to attract them,” said Clark.
“Let’s get them here and that will help generate thousands of ideas that are going to become startups, that are going to become successful.”
Another US import arriving soon will be rideshare. Under the BC Liberals, Uber and Lyft would be welcome in December. Clark thinks young voters will be “thrilled.”
“In a modern urban city that’s tech friendly, why shouldn’t we have rideshare? We should make sure it’s a fair playing field for existing cab drivers for sure, we are focused on that.”
If you’re interested in transportation, it’s worth noting the BC Liberals are the only party pledging to build the $3.5 billion George Massey bridge replacement.
And if you’re concerned about the environment, note the BC Liberals are also the only party promising to finish the Site C dam, and stand by the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion.
But ahead of the election, Clark’s argument is clear–everything ultimately comes down to jobs and the economy.
“I think most of us are driven by wanting to make life more affordable, wanting to own our own home, wanting to have more money in our pockets and less taxes.
“I think those are pretty common things that motivate people and I think that’s how most people vote.”
As a reminder of the province-wide vote about to happen, you can hardly miss the gold BC-shaped necklace worn by Clark everywhere on the campaign trail.
“It was a gift!” Clark told us. “They haven’t figured out how to get Vancouver Island on it yet though.”
It remains to be seen whether the necklace will prove lucky for Clark, but she says she feels confident about the BC Liberals’ record.
“I’m always an optimist and that’s all you can be,” she said. “All I can do is talk about the things I stand for and believe in.
“If British Columbians agree with me, I’ll be happy with the outcome, if British Columbians don’t, then somebody else will be happy with the outcome.”
“I don’t try to think too much about winning, losing, coming halfway, I just want to do the absolute best I can every single day.”
Daily Hive is your home for BC Election coverage throughout the campaign period. To access our full BC Election coverage click here: Battleground BC.