British Columbia

Clark says B.C. Liberal cabinet is 'united'

Embattled B.C. Premier Christy Clark said her cabinet was "united" after emerging from a three-hour emergency cabinet meeting in Vancouver Sunday night.

Emergency meeting called over 'ethnic vote' scandal

British Columbia Premier Christy Clark said her cabinet was "united" after an emergency meeting Sunday. (Ben Nelms/Reuters)

Embattled B.C. Premier Christy Clark said her cabinet was "united" after emerging from a three-hour emergency cabinet meeting in Vancouver Sunday night.

Eighteen Liberal cabinet ministers gathered to meet with Clark, who called the meeting so she could speak to her team for the first time since a scandal erupted over a leaked plan to woo ethnic voters.

"This group is absolutely united and we have a lot of work to do on behalf of British Columbians," said Clark, who also told reporters that she will not resign, despite calls from some B.C. Liberal Party members that she step down.

Earlier on Sunday, more than 100 B.C. Liberal Party members called for Clark's resignation at a breakfast meeting in Surrey Sunday morning.

Those at the meeting said Clark must resign in order for the party to stage a comeback in time for the May provincial election.

"She must step forward, show her leadership qualities and resign," said Vikram Bajwa, a former mayoral candidate in Surrey who attended the Sunday morning meeting.

But Liberal cabinet ministers arriving at the meeting on Sunday said they still support the premier.

"She's a trooper… she's our leader. We have a lot of faith in her," said Bill Bennett, Minister of Community Sport and Cultural Development.

Mary Polak, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure, agreed. 

"She has apologized. With the action she has taken, I can't see what else she could do to correct the situation," Polak said.

Deputy Premier Rich Coleman, who is also the Minister of Energy and Mines, said the media had overblown the issue.

"I mean we're having a meeting. You guys are deciding to make it more than what it is… and I get a quite a kick out of how you dramatize some of this stuff," he told CBC News.

"As far as I'm concerned we will go into the next election with Christy and we'll beat the NDP."

In the midst of the controversy, some at least one riding association president resigned and openly criticized Clark. On Friday the premier accepted the resignation of her deputy chief of staff, Kim Haakstad.

The documents, leaked by the opposition NDP, were originally sent from Haakstad's email account in January last year and revealed a proposed outreach plan involving the premier's office, the Multiculturalism Ministry, the government caucus and the B.C. Liberal Party.

The documents indicate election-related planning was to be conducted by taxpayer-funded workers, some working out of the premier's office.

It also outlined "quick wins" for the Liberals, such as making apologies in the Legislature for historical wrongs, and specifically mentioned the 1914 Komagata Maru incident, which saw a ship carrying 356 passengers forced to return to India after a two-month stand-off in Vancouver Harbour.

Former premier Gordon Campbell already issued an official apology regarding the Komagata Maru incident in 2008.

Members of B.C.'s Chinese and South Asian communities reacted with outrage and called the actions of the Liberal Party "disrespectful" and "immoral."

Clark apologized in a written statement on Thursday for the language used in the document.

The B.C. legislature resumes Monday.