British Columbia

Christy Clark resigns as leader of B.C. Liberal Party

Former premier Christy Clark will step down as leader of the B.C. Liberal Party on Aug. 4 and leave politics.

Resignation of former premier effective Aug. 4

Former B.C. premier Christy Clark's sudden resignation as leader came as a surprise to some colleagues. (Canadian Press)

Former premier Christy Clark will step down as leader of the B.C. Liberal Party on Aug. 4 and leave politics.

The announcement comes just 10 days after B.C. NDP Leader John Horgan was sworn in as B.C. premier, having formed a historic alliance with the B.C. Green Party following a tumultuous provincial election.

"Serving as premier and serving the people of British Columbia for the past 6½ years has been an incredible honour and privilege," Clark said in a statement. "I am so proud of everything our B.C. Liberal team has accomplished.

"I am certain that British Columbia's best days lie ahead. Because British Columbians can, through hard work, determination and perseverance, achieve anything they set their minds to."

Political players react

In a statement, the B.C. Liberal caucus said Rich Coleman, member of the legislature for Langley East, will serve as interim caucus leader.

"What she's given to this province should never be ... forgotten," Coleman said. "She can walk out with her head held high saying she accomplished more than anyone thought she could."

"This caucus supports Christy Clark. From a very emotional perspective, I think she just thought, 'I want to give these guys a chance to renew.'"

Coleman said he does not intend to run for the party's leadership, and would resign his interim position immediately should he change his mind.

Horgan and B.C. Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver both thanked Clark for her service to the province.

"I give her full marks for her contribution to public service." Horgan said. "She served well as an opposition member, as a cabinet minister and as a premier. It is, I guess, the end of an era for her and the B.C. Liberal Party."

"She's been a fierce supporter of British Columbia both nationally and internationally," said Weaver. "We've had a number of disagreements on policy directions over the years, however I've thoroughly enjoyed working with her across party lines to create good public policy."

A dramatic rise

Clark's Liberals governed B.C. for 5,869 days — one of the longest political dynasties in the province's history.

Her life changed dramatically on Feb. 26, 2011, when the radio talk show host and former education minister won the party's leadership race and became the province's 35th premier.

Clark and her son, Hamish Marrisen-Clark, 11, share a laugh as they watch the results on TV of the British Columbia provincial election on May 14, 2013, after leading the Liberals to victory. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

In 2013 she led her party to a stunning come-from-behind victory in B.C.'s 40th provincial election.

Her party failed to win a majority in the 2017 election, which ultimately ended Clark's run as premier — and 16 years of Liberal leadership in B.C.

Following 52 days of political uncertainty, Horgan was asked to govern by Lt.-Gov. Judith Guichon after Clark's Liberals were defeated in a confidence vote on June 29.

'Sudden but efficient'

The announcement came as a surprise to some of Clark's closest political allies.

David Mitchell, a political scientist and former B.C. Liberal MLA, said the announcement was "sudden, but efficient."

Clark was voted Liberal Party leader on Feb. 26, 2011. (Andy Clark/Reuters)

"After the narrowness of the margin of her defeat and the soul searching that's going on in the former governing party, I think it's very difficult for a premier to change hats and all of a sudden become an opposition leader," he said.

Bill Bennett, one of the longest-serving members of Clark's cabinet, said he was "shocked, and I have to admit, disappointed."

Bennett said he is in regular contact with Clark, but "didn't have any reason to think she would decide this at this point in time."

"She clearly has made this decision on the basis of what's in the best interest for the province; that takes a lot of courage, there's no question she could have stayed on," he said, given her strong support within the B.C. Liberal caucus.

"Timing must have been a real consideration," he said. 

Finding the right moment to pick Clark's replacement will be delicate, he said.

"It's so unpredictable what's going to happen now."

Clark speaks to her son, Hamish, during the swearing-in ceremony at the legislature on Sept. 8, 2013. (CBC)

George Abbott, another former B.C. cabinet minister, was among those surprised.

"I certainly didn't expect it this quickly," he said.

Abbott said he knew Clark would need to make a decision — but that this was not the choice he expected her to make.

"I thought that she would probably be hanging around, in the expectation that there could be another election in a year or two. I doubt whether anyone apart from the circle that is very, very close to her would have known this."

"In many ways, the B.C. Liberal Party needs to define itself in the next few months," he said. "The 2017 throne speech was a very considerable departure from the vision that was set out in the 2017 election campaign."

"The incoming leadership candidates have to try to frame themselves either around portions of that vision or an entirely new vision that might move the Liberal Party back to where it traditionally has been."

With files from Farrah Merali and Josh Pagé