New premier Christy Clark

New premier Christy Clark

EDITORIAL: Selection not a mandate

With all the hoopla over last weekend’s election of a BC Liberal leader – and the selection of the province’s next premier – it’s easy to overlook one thing.

The only ones who did any actual voting were BC Liberal party members. And as active as the campaigning candidates were in soliciting party memberships, they didn’t sign up all of us, not by a long chalk.

That begs a question – just what is the mandate of the new leader as far as the overall populace is concerned?

As tempting as it must be for Christy Clark to establish new directions for the provincial government, it must be remembered that the only mandate presented by the electorate of B.C. was the one given in 2009 to the government led by Gordon Campbell.

To be fair to all voters, there are clearly only two choices of direction to be made by the new premier: stay the course established by Campbell and his cabinet; or call an early election and let the public provide a mandate either to her or one of her opponents.

Clark, herself, is in a particularly delicate situation. Unlike the other candidates for the top spot, she is merely a former MLA and represents no riding. No one voted for her to represent them in Victoria, outside of the aforementioned party members.

Although a former deputy premier in an earlier Campbell term, she walked away from public office to become yet another media commentator in her chosen role of radio talk show host.

Now she is seen – by the Liberal membership, at least – as the leader most likely to get our vote in 2013.

She is the supposedly palatable choice, as far distanced from Campbell and the policies and personal style that so disenchanted voters, as any Liberal insider could be.

But can she hope to wield a new broom effectively without endorsement from the people of B.C.?

Wouldn’t that be read as the kind of arrogance – and unilateral approach – that drew such fire for the introduction of the HST that proved, ultimately, to be Campbell’s undoing?

When she first threw her hat into the leadership ring, Clark intimated she would favour an early election call. If she hopes to move forward with a clear mandate for her ideas and policies – and take advantage of any remaining momentum from the leadership race – she should honour this sentiment and move to give the choice to all voters before she truly takes the reins.