On April 8, 2016 at the recent Council of Forest Industries’ Annual Convention in Kelowna, Premier Christy Clark suggested that achieving a softwood lumber agreement was her #1 Priority. She subsequently repeated this claim several times on social media. For those following the Premier and her recent speeches and public appearances this statement was (and is) somewhat perplexing and may have inspired more than a few people out there to pause for thought as just over a month ago (in March 2016) when speaking to reporters after her speech at the GLOBE Clean-Tech Conference Christy Clark said that securing federal cash to upgrade the hydro grid between BC and Alberta was the #1 priority of her government.
Also perplexing is the fact that a month prior in February, 2016, Clark said that BC’s two priorities are LNG and new softwood lumber accord with the U.S. with the softwood lumber accord being the top priority. And prior to that, in the BC Chamber of Commerce Public Affairs Update published on October 26, 2015, Christy Clark is noted as having said that “the top priority remains the development of LNG in BC”. This same claim (that LNG was priority #1) was stated by Christy Clark on December 10, 2014 in an interview with two Bloomberg writers in New York. Also, previously one may remember that during the confrontation with the BCTF in 2014 that she tweeted out (on August 31, 2014) that class composition in BC Schools is Priority #1 because “students’ needs come first”.
In 2014 while addressing the Fort Nelson Chamber of Commerce she was quoted as saying that her top priority was the economy. In 2013, during the election campaign Christy Clark was noted as having stated that fixing schools (doing seismic upgrades) was her top priority with her stating that “absolutely, nothing is more important than keeping our kids safe”. In 2012 Premier Clark was also noted as having said that job growth was her number one priority. Also in 2012, the then Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training, Pat Bell was quoted in a BC Liberal Caucus News Release as stating that “Job creation is our government’s number one priority“. And in a survey response to the B.C. Trucking Association, the BC Liberal Party stated that the “Number one priority for Today’s BC Liberals is growing the economy to get to a debt-free BC“.
This apparent #1 Priority confusion is not exactly new for Christy Clark too. On July 30, 2012 at a Women-only gathering hosted by the Columbia Valley Chamber of Commerce, Christy Clark is quoted as saying her “My #1 Priority is Liquefied Natural Gas.” Showing this confusion in the same speech at the same event (no less) she is noted as having said that families must be considered Priority #1 by Victoria.
Wait a second. What gives? What exactly is going on here? How could all these things be Priority #1? Is that even possible? One would think perhaps that a wet behind the ears BC Liberal staffer in short pants could be responsible for at least some of these inconsistencies but more often than not, the Priority #1 claims are coming directly from the mouth of Christy Clark herself. And what about that the “Families First” mantra repeated ad nauseam by Christy Clark and the BC Liberals during the last Provincial election? You may remember that after being elected in 2013 Christy Clark was quoted as saying “My top priority will be to put families first” even though the “Families First” mantra quite clearly hasn’t exactly been either followed or is an appropriate slogan for this government. Where exactly does “Families First” fit it in amongst all these #1 Priorities? If families are first, aren’t they Priority #1?
It has become a truism in politics that actions speak louder than words and you would be forgiven for thinking that over the past few years that LNG, Site C, running a secretive government (as exemplified by the Triple Delete Scandal), protecting corporate donations to the Liberal Party (as evinced by their recent vote to protect their corporate donations and not ban corporate and union donations), the Massey Bridge fiasco (the publicly funded opening and commercialization of the Lower Fraser River at taxpayer expense in order to facilitate deep sea oil and LNG tankers), underfunding education so that the money could be on pet projects such as LNG and Site C could at various times be considered the #1 Priority for Christy Clark and the BC Liberals. Where exactly are families in that last? Not first and they certainly are not Priority #1 that’s for sure.
So what can you say about all this apparent Priority #1 confusion?
Well, it appears in most cases that what is stated as being Priority #1 for Christy Clark and the BC Liberals depends on the audience and the situation in which it is being stated. In practice though it really depending on the perceived political bonus points that could be scored with the audience to which the Priority #1 message is being conveyed. An evaluation of whether or not saying it could be considered a “quick win” if you will. A “tell them what they want to hear and hope that nobody notices” kind of strategy. Could the more recent confusion and shifting of Priority #1 status signify a change in direction policywise and a tacit admission and realization that with the failing fortunes of LNG and no hope in that regard on the immediate horizon that the BC Liberals need to prioritize and rejig their message and downplay the importance of LNG to have any hope of being re-elected? Not really sure. Possibly though.
Then what really is Priority #1 for Christy Clark and the BC Liberals? Quite clearly, Priority #1 is to get re-elected at any and all costs. It is a do anything and say anything free-for-all in that regards where the ends justify the means (as we have seen in the Triple Delete scandal). Want to ignore WCB regulations to get a photo-op in?
Sure, no problem. Want to set up an exclusive photo op/meeting with the Minister of Education, and local BC Liberal friendly school superintendent, and local school trustees and have a photo taken during working hours in your campaign office in front of a campaign sign? Sure, no problem.
Want to blur the lines between party advertisements and government advertising? Sure no problem. Want to delete anything to do with the business case for the Massey Bridge? Sure, no problem. Want to use government resources and campaign on the public’s dime? Sure. Want to use public money for political ads? Absolutely. At least if Christy Clark and the BC Liberals came out and admitted that getting re-elected is Priority #1 I would at least appreciate their honesty and would actually believe what they are saying. You know, like when then BC Liberal Candidate Dan Ashton MLA for Penticton stated in 2012 after winning the BC Liberal nomination that “Our No. 1 priority is that we have to see the NDP doesn’t get elected…“. The actions of the BC Liberals and their supporters over the next year leading up to the next Provincial election will quite clearly reveal what indeed is Priority #1 is for this Christy Clark and the BC Liberals. Just wait for it. And don’t be fooled by the last minute money that will be thrown at Education, raises in welfare rates, raises in minimum wage, etc. in an effort to garner votes and favour. It is all part of what we all know is Priority #1 for Christy Clark and the BC Liberals: Getting to Yes to re-electing the BC Liberals. And what about families? They are “first”, right after all the #1 Priorities.
Edit: I happened to come across a letter written by Rich Coleman to the Major of Fort St. John which continues the storied tradition of the BC Liberals in telling the audience what they want to hear. In the letter, Mr. Coleman states that “LNG remains the highest priority of the Province” (see below). Old habits die hard. And the Trumpian “BCFirst” mantra unveiled while instigating a new tax on foreign investors. Please. Just more of the same old, same old.