British Columbia

Clark pushes families-first agenda

On her first day as premier-designate, Christy Clark took some time out for her family — hot on the heels of a victory speech in which she vowed families would be her party's top priority.

Premier-designate vows to move up HST referendum

B.C. premier-designate Christy Clark, in the red scarf, jokes with photographers as she watches her nine-year-old son's hockey game in Vancouver. ((Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press))

On her first day as premier-designate, Christy Clark took some time out for her family — hot on the heels of a victory speech in which she vowed families would be her party's top priority.

"I feel really good. I got a good sleep last night and I'm ready to go," Clark told reporters gathered Sunday outside a Vancouver hockey rink where her son Hamish, 9, was playing.

Clark, 45, narrowly won her party's leadership in a close three-ballot victory over Kevin Falcon on Saturday. She'll take over from outgoing Premier Gordon Campbell sometime next month.

Clark promised to put families first, and pledged a change in style from Campbell.

"I think people want change. I think British Columbians want change in government and I certainly heard that across the province," she told reporters on Sunday.

Since her victory at the leadership convention, Clark said she has received transition books and documents from the head of B.C.'s public service.

Clark to move up HST referendum

The former radio talk show host said she has also been speaking with members of the B.C. Liberal caucus. Clark will have to choose a new cabinet, her first order of business as premier-designate. She told reporters she has made no decisions on cabinet, but expects to make them in the coming weeks.

Clark said her top priorities would be balancing the budget, uniting the B.C. Liberal party and putting families at the top of the agenda.

The incoming premier said she wants to run in a byelection as soon as possible in order to seek a seat in the legislature, but she also tried to calm speculation about an early election call, something she pitched during the three-month leadership campaign.

"I'm not thinking about an election in the next few months, so I'm not even thinking about trying to sell anybody on the idea at the moment," she said.

"We have a lot of work to do ahead of us and so we're ready to get started on that."

Under B.C.'s fixed-election law, the next provincial election is set for May 2013, but the government can legally call a vote at any time.

Clark also said she would move up a province-wide referendum on the controversial harmonized sales tax, the issue that ultimately forced Campbell out of office. She plans to move the referendum, currently scheduled for September, to June 24.

NDP urges Clark to call back legislature

Although Clark won't be sworn into office for several weeks, the Opposition NDP wasted no time in urging the premier-designate to get to work.

Interim NDP leader Dawn Black says Clark should reconvene the legislature. ((CBC))

"It's time that Ms. Clark stopped the victory lap, moved on and called the legislature back," interim NDP leader Dawn Black said on Sunday.

"We have not had a functioning government now for many months and it's time for Ms. Clark to really get down to work and show that she is up to the task to be the premier of British Columbia."

Black urged Clark to get busy improving the lives of British Columbians. She called on Clark to immediately address the province's unemployment rate and the HST.

However, she remained skeptical of Clark's ability to effect real change in B.C.

"This is a change at the top, this is a change in the face, but is this really change for British Columbians, is it really a positive change for British Columbia?" she said.

The Opposition New Democrats are embroiled in their own leadership campaign and are far from a united force.

The April 17 NDP leadership vote was prompted by the resignation of leader Carole James, who quit during a bitter caucus feud over her seven-year leadership.

With files from the CBC's Chris Brown, The Canadian Press