Premier Christy Clark has attracted a lot of attention from her recruitment of key aides from the Stephen Harper government, but I haven't seen much evidence that it has resulted in a noticeable right-wing shift in her administration.
As a result, it follows that wooing supporters who have strayed to the B.C. Conservative party back to the B.C. Liberal fold is going to require more than just a change in personnel and the odd photo op with Harper.
Oh sure, there was the dustup between reporters and her new communications director over a lack of access to the premier in Vancouver last week that had everyone wondering whether this was the first clue a Harper-like approach to governing was occurring.
Sara McIntyre, the new director, is a former press secretary to Harper (who is well-known for his control freak approach to communications).
It was assumed this controlling approach would find its way into the B.C. premier's office, but other than the afore-mentioned incident in Vancouver (which saw McIntyre play a starring role on television newscasts, telling journalists they couldn't talk to the premier) this has not happened.
Clark makes herself available on a regular basis to the media (the press gallery questions her every day when she's in Victoria) and so far hasn't invited comparisons to the prime minister when it comes to media relations.
She'd be well-advised not to go down that road anyways. The relationship between the B.C. media and this province's premier has always been an informal, accessible one - no matter who has occupied the office. Any attempt to cut the media off from questioning her or her ministers would simply blow up in the government's face, and the last thing this government needs is another case of bad relations with anyone.
The other key aide now working in her office is Ken Boessenkool, a former Harper aide who is now her chief of staff. His right-wing credentials are impeccable, but there's not much evidence of them influencing government policy.
Clark likes to boast that her government's latest budget is the "most conservative" one in the country.
But does a truly "conservative" budget collect more than $1 billion in additional taxes, or raise the provincial debt by almost $7 billion in one year? Clark's support of such things as the new transit levy in Metro Vancouver, the carbon tax and a spiraling provincial debt load does little to appease the hard-core conservative voter out there.
And until she finds a way to bring those voters back into her party's camp, her re-election chances are doomed.
The first evidence of whether she's done enough to win those voters back will be seen relatively soon. The upcoming byelections in Port Moody-Coquitlam and Chilliwack-Hope will test the strength of the B.C. Conservatives, and provide a real measure of that party's impact on the B.C. Liberal party.
In the 2009 general election, the B.C. Conservative candidate in Chilliwack-Hope received just seven per cent of the vote, and the party didn't even field a candidate in Port Moody-Coquitlam.
This time, the party is running two credible candidates and both will likely make a strong impression. Christine Clark is running in Port Moody, while John Martin is the party's candidate in Chilliwack.
In this province, history shows governments rarely win byelections (Christy Clark's own victory in Vancouver-Point Grey was the first government win in more than 25 years), so the B.C. Liberals have to considered underdogs in these contests.
The byelection in Chilliwack-Hope could be particularly telling. This all the earmarks of a genuine three-way race and it is conceivable the B.C. Liberals could finish third.
The NDP usually gets about a third of the vote in that riding, and will likely fare a little better this time. But the key numbers to watch will be how the other two parties split the remaining vote.
The result in Chilliwack-Hope will show whether Christy Clark's insistence that she's really a conservative deep down is actually resonating with disaffected B.C. Liberal voters.
I have a feeling she still has a lot of convincing to do on that front.
Hiring a couple of people from Stephen Harper's office can only take you so far, and the B.C. Liberals have a long road ahead of them when it comes to recovering support.
Keith Baldrey is chief political reporter for Global B.C.
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