This provincial election isn’t the first time BC Liberal candidate Carol Leclerc has fixed her aim on New Democrat opponent Robin Austin.
In early 2009, while still on city council and in the lead up to the provincial election of that spring, Leclerc expressed frustration on what she perceived as a failure by Austin to stay in touch with city council.
“In the last while, there’s been a lack of help from the current MLA,” Leclerc told council at a January 2009 meeting with then BC Liberal candidate Donny van Dyk in attendance.
Austin responded to the criticism at a March 2009 council meeting.
“This is the very first opportunity since you got sworn in that I have been able to come here,” he told councillors, apologizing for not coming earlier. He then mentioned that his office had been in constant contact with the city, asking if there was anything they could do in terms of advocating on behalf of the city.
“We always had two answers,” he said. “One: no thank you, everything’s fine, or...no answer.”
But he noted that it was a previous mayor and council, noting that there was already a difference between this council and the last.
Leclerc responded by wishing him the best, and saying council would accommodate his schedule if he were elected again in the May 2009 election.
In a recent interview, Leclerc reflected on those events, emphasizing first that she was not even a member then of the BC Liberal party.
“... I found it very frustrating that he would never make an effort, it seemed like, to say, what’s happening with city council, is there anything I can help?," she said. “When we go down to [the annual Union of BC Municipalities convention] he only ever sat with or walked or talked with people that were NDP, and it made you feel like chopped liver – like, what’s wrong with the rest of us?”
As a resident and councillor, she said she expected more from an MLA.
“I don’t think that you can make connections and know what’s going on if you don’t talk to people so I thought that there was a huge gap from our MLA, if Terrace is our largest community in our riding, don’t you care? How can you know what’s going on if you don’t come and talk to us? It was very frustrating.”
Leclerc said she took some criticism following the meeting with van Dyk in attendance.
“I made a comment that if he got elected it would be nice to see more of him, and I did get heat from people because they thought I was getting into partisan and it was just a message... if you get elected, stay connected with us. It was just meant, we want to see you.”
Austin, for his part, framed the 2009 city council incidents in the context of this election.
“It’s old messaging. She used this in 2009 and I only increased my margin of winning by 400 per cent,” he said.
Still, encounters between the pair haven’t always been of a partisan nature.
Both appeared on the 2007 Thanksiving Day weekend at a large tent set up in the Canadian Tire parking lot where then-BC Liberal fitness minister Gordon Hogg was promoting ActNowBC, a program encouraging people to become more physically fit.
Austin, who has Type II diabetes, and Leclerc each spoke about the benefits of daily physical activity.
Pedometers costing $2 each were sold at the event with those attending urged to use them to record 10,000 steps a day.
Austin noted that if political opponents cannot agree on physical fitness as a common goal of good public policy, then society is in trouble.