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Christy Clark says Victoria residents are not part of ‘sick culture’

Sep 20 2012
Christy Clark: “My point was when a politician sits on the grounds of the legislature and spends most of their time there, they are talking to pundits and they are talking to each other." 

Christy Clark: “My point was when a politician sits on the grounds of the legislature and spends most of their time there, they are talking to pundits and they are talking to each other."

Photograph by: Darren Stone , timescolonist.com (June 2012)

It’s the people and politicians who work at the legislature, not the residents of Victoria, who make up the “sick culture” of the capital, Premier Christy Clark said Wednesday.

Clark backtracked from comments she made about her disdain for working in Victoria, but stopped short of apologizing.

She said she wasn’t referring to ordinary residents of the City of Victoria.

“I meant the grounds of the legislature, I want to be clear about that,” she said.

“The people of Victoria are just the same as the people of Prince George, or in Burnaby or in Richmond or Fort St. John — they want their government to listen to them.

“My point was when a politician sits on the grounds of the legislature and spends most of their time there, they are talking to pundits and they are talking to each other. You cannot build a government that responds to the needs of British Columbians if you’re not out there listening to them.”

Clark found herself on the defensive after saying she tries to avoid working at the legislature because there’s a “sick culture” and “no real people in Victoria.”

The premier made the statements in an interview with the National Post in May. The newspaper first published her quotes Aug. 31, and republished them Tuesday in the context of Clark’s decision to cancel the regularly scheduled fall session of the legislature.

The legislature can become “an enclosed bubble” and politicians do a better job visiting the province than sitting in the capital, Clark said while clarifying her remarks Wednesday.

But the premier was silent when asked by a reporter if she’d apologize to anyone offended.

The cancellation of the fall session means MLAs are likely to only return to the legislature in February for a short session and a provincial budget, before breaking to campaign in the May provincial election.

The legislature has been in session 75 days since Clark entered the house as MLA and premier on May 30, 2011 — though she hasn’t been present for all of those days.

Clark’s comments became fodder Wednesday for radio talk shows and critics, many of whom questioned why she ran to become premier if she doesn’t like working at the legislature.

“The premier’s attitude about the legislature and about governing is appalling,” said Esquimalt-Royal Roads NDP MLA Maurine Karagianis. “Clearly, the premier would rather be out away from the accountability of the legislature in the days leading up to a very critical election.”

Karagianis said many of her constituents are government workers who don’t appreciate the premier’s comments.

The premier refused an interview request from the Times Colonist.

The backlash over Clark’s comments overshadowed her announcement of a new strategy to encourage skills-training programs, promote careers in trades and upgrade training facilities and technical equipment.

The goal of the programs is to increase the number of high school graduates entering a trade or technical program after high school by 50 per cent, she said.

The new plan will cost $75 million, which is not new money but will be diverted from the Advanced Education Ministry.

NDP critic Gwen O’Mahony said it was “too little too late” and only served to restore some services, such as trades counsellors, that the Liberals cut when they formed government more than 10 years ago.

rshaw@timescolonist.com

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