British Columbia·Analysis

Christy Clark's 2016 must include accomplishments, not just promises

B.C.'s premier is banking on the province having one of the strongest economies in the country, so she can spend money heading into a 2017 election.

It's time for B.C.'s premier to deliver on promises made during her first 4 years in power

Christy Clark has made many promises during her four years in power. 2016 will be the year she must deliver. (CBC)

This holiday season Premier Christy Clark is in a giving mood, wrapping 2015 by laying out what appears to be a plan for an election that is a year and a half away.

Since she took over the Liberal leadership in 2011, Clark has spent the past four years making promises of how great things can be if the economy strengthens. Now it's time for her to deliver.

The first indication of new spending came from the premier's year-end interview with the CBC. She's promising more money for the troubled Ministry of Children and Family Development in the 2016 budget.

"With children and families we don't have the resources if we don't grow the economy." said Clark to open up her sit-down interview. "That is the beginning of the good things we want to be able to do.

"I am going to be able to say yes, let's put more money in because British Columbians have worked so hard over the last four years to stabilize the economy"

She calls B.C.'s economy "the best in the country," quickly adding it's "going to lead this year and next year according to the conference board."

Focus on the economy

And you can expect Clark to continue to focus her 2016 announcements on converting B.C.'s economic strength into new spending. She used the same strategy in her year-end interview with the Canadian Press this month.

"We have a chance to start making decisions about how we want to invest those [economic] dividends for people," Clark told CP.

"There are a lot of things we are now able to do that we weren't necessarily able to do three years ago because we were in such rough financial shape."

Three years ago heading into the 2013 election, Clark had a much different approach. With the fledgling B.C. Conservatives gaining momentum, Clark moved away from her centrist roots to solidify support on the right of the political spectrum.

She did that by pairing up with big business on the liquefied natural gas industry. The government also opted for no major tax increases, while balancing the budget.

The strategy worked. The Liberals won the election and Clark was provided with a mandate.

But now she has a new message for British Columbians — it is time to spend.

It is all because Clark wants to have something tangible to run on in 2017, and she wants to please her core, centrist supporters, says University of Victoria political scientist Jamie Lawson.

"Christy Clark's own chunk of the B.C. Liberal party can hear some things in the language she is testing out that they will like a whole lot more than they would have been hearing the last little while," says Lawson.

When will LNG deliver?

One of the biggest challenges for Clark remains the fact she has pinned much of the province's future economic success on liquefied natural gas — and its unlikely LNG will deliver many tangible results before the next election.

So the promises continue.

"I think what people want to see is people who will try and make things happen," said Clark.

It is clearly a shot at John Horgan and the NDP, who the Liberals like to paint as bad for the economy.

The NDP leader, for his part, criticizes Clark for attempting to "buy votes."

"What I hear when I hear that message is, 'It is now time for me to invest in British Columbia because I want them to vote for me.'" says Horgan.

"British Columbians are going to hear, 'She's buying my vote.'"

While Horgan doesn't have the same pressure of having to produce, he does need to lay out a plan for what he stands for. 

But he says he going to take more time to listen to voters next year.

"Next year, by talking to people about what the issue are in their communities. I am still in the listening mode," he said. 

"I am not at the point yet of saying this is going to be the ballot issue, this is how I am going to shape who John Horgan is."

Nevertheless, for Christy Clark it won't matter who Horgan becomes, if she doesn't deliver some tangible results on her promises in 2016.

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