Christy Clark dodges election questions after HST loss
B.C. Premier Christy Clark refuses to rule out the possibility of a fall election following the failure of her Liberal government to win the HST referendum.
Results of the binding referendum were released Friday and showed 55 per cent voted to scrap the harmonized sales tax, imposed in July 2010.
Despite repeated questioning and challenges by reporters at a news conference Friday, Clark skirted the issue, not ruling out a fall election, and saying she was concentrating on job creation in the province.
"I know you think a lot about elections," she said to one reporter. "Perhaps more than I do."
CBC TV legislative reporter Stephen Smart asked Clark for a clarification:
"How can you expect the public and your MLAs to focus on your agenda and jobs when the election card is still on the table," said Smart. "Why not just rule that out? The questions end today and you get on with the agenda."
Clark referred directly to the subject of jobs and indirectly to the election question.
"I'm going to be focused on the creation of jobs until May 2013 — if that's when the election is held," Clark said.
But Clark then added: "So this question, this idea, this dichotomy that you draw between whether or not you can govern and not know when the election is at the same time, I think, is wrong."
Smart pressed the point again.
"Respectfully, we've all asked the same question and you've not answered it each time... Why won't you rule [an election] out?"
Clark replied: "Well, what I'm saying is I'm going to focus on jobs. I'm going to find the best way to make sure that we deliver on the jobs agenda."
The premier also said the legislature would reconvene in October and repeated her intention to make a trade mission to India and China in November.
However, a 28-day election campaign could be called in the next two weeks and that would still allow enough time for the legislature to convene in October.
Further fueling election speculation was a new B.C. Liberal fundraising letter obtained Friday by CBC News.
The email letter, entitled "Message from Premier Christy Clark on HST Referendum," was addressed to BC Liberal supporters, who Clark tells she is "disappointed in the result" of the vote.
Clark asks supporters to donate funds to help the party realize its "plan to defend and create BC jobs — and I think you will be [excited] too when it is outlined in the coming weeks."
The letter then uses language that sounds like a party already in campaign mode rather than one that has a 15-seat majority over the NDP and two years remaining in its mandate.
"The stakes are tremendously high, especially with our economy in jeopardy due to the global situation. We need to act boldly because the alternative is an NDP government led by Adrian Dix, one of the main architects of the disastrous economic policies of the 1990s."
Under B.C.'s fixed-date election law, the next general vote would be held in May 2013. But the legislation still allows a premier to ask the lieutenant-governor to dissolve the legislature and hold an election at any time.
With files from the CBC's Jeff Davies and Stephen Smart