Clark apologizes for 'language' in leaked ethnic vote plan
Published Sunday, March 3, 2013 7:30AM EST
Last Updated Sunday, March 3, 2013 11:06PM EST
In the face of growing scandal, British Columbia Premier Christy Clark repeated her apology Sunday over a leaked plan designed to woo ethnic voters.
Exiting a hastily called cabinet meeting in Vancouver, the embattled Clark said she “sincerely apologize” for language used in a leaked document outlining a strategy to win over voters in multicultural communities.
“I think when you make a mistake, when somebody in your organization makes a mistake, the right thing to do is to own up to it, and to make it right,” Clark told reporters. “That’s why I apologize, because we have to make that right.”
Clark declined to divulge details on what was discussed at the cabinet meeting, saying only that she and her ministers remained united and ready to govern.
Asked whether she would resign, Clark smiled and said, “I think I already answered that, didn’t I?”
As ministers left the meeting, they said they support Clark, but they didn’t shy away from expressing disappointment over the matter.
"We shared some inner feelings," said Ben Stewart, minister of citizen services and open government. "There's certainly disappointment at so many people close to government involved in these activities."
Ahead of the meeting, Deputy Premier Rich Coleman told reporters there was “absolute unity” when he was asked about a split within the party over the leaked document.
Meanwhile, earlier Sunday, members of Clark’s own party called for her resignation.
Hours before the cabinet meeting, 89 members of the Liberal Party met in Surrey to sign a declaration urging the premier step down for “making the ‘Ethnic Vote’ a joke in B.C.”
Liberals who attended the breakfast meeting included party members of Indo-Canadian and South Asian descent.
The scandal risks a loss of power in government for the Liberals, said Vikram Bajwa, who co-ordinated the Sunday morning breakfast meeting.
“Let somebody else come up with new leadership,” he said in an interview with CTV News.
A provincial election is scheduled for May. 14.
The embattled premier has been openly criticized by members of her own party over the proposed strategy, which suggested apologizing for historical racial wrongs for “quick wins” at the polls.
The 17-page paper, penned by Clark’s chief of staff and closest advisor Kim Haakdstad in January 2012, urged the Liberals to co-ordinate resources -- including some funded by taxpayers -- to focus on winning over ethnic voters.
Haakdstad resigned over the document, which was leaked by the NDP party, on Friday.
B.C. NDP Leader Adrian Dix said Saturday that the blame for the scandal rests with the entire Liberal party, not just with one party member.
“I think the issue isn’t individuals,” Dix told CTV British Columbia. “Ultimately the issue is the Liberal Party’s responsibility for a very unfortunate episode in our politics.”
Clark issued a letter of apology that was read during question period on Thursday, but she herself wasn't in the house.
The scandal prompted the vice-president of the Surrey-Tynehead B.C. Liberal Riding Association to resign his post.
“It’s incredibly inappropriate to profit off racial tragedy,” James Plett said Saturday. “It’s so despicable.”
He said a number of Liberals feel “very strongly” about the issue.
In light of the scandal, Bajwa said the group is also calling on Clark to ditch the Times of India awards, a large international film event set for April.
He said the group is concerned about backlash for the community because it’s a major event funded by taxpayer dollars.
Bajwa, who ran unsuccessfully for mayor of Surrey in 2011, said the scandal affects all ethnic communities in B.C., and says it harkens back to past controversies over the Chinese Head Tax, a levy that imposed on Chinese immigrants to Canada in the late part of the 19th century.
“We don’t want to be a part of it and don’t want our votes disrespected in that manner,” he said.
With a report from CTV British Columbia’s Penny Daflos and with files from The Canadian Press