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Les Leyne: Clark shows star quality in Asian trip

Les Leyne

“She’s a bit of a rock star,” says Royal Roads University President Allan Cahoon.

He’s talking about Premier Christy Clark, after watching her for a week as part of the trade delegation she led to Japan, Korea and China.

Clark’s staff always come back from overseas trips enthused about how well she goes over, which is just what you’d expect to hear from them.

But the view seems to be shared by people who don’t work for her. It’s hard to find anyone with a criticism of how Clark performs on the trips.

The missions are basically like election campaigns, only they’re staged in foreign countries. Clark obviously proved last spring she excels at campaigning, and the most recent trip shows she’s still got the moves.

“She’s charismatic,” said Cahoon. “She speaks very well and her level of engagement resonates very well.”

He said the people he dealt with on the trip were surprised to find that a politician would have that much personality. “People could hardly leave her alone. She was over the top.”

Cahoon came along to execute several agreements with institutions in Japan and Korea to do with Royal Roads programs.

Having the premier on hand gives credence to the signings of the understandings. “Having the blessing of the leader says that you’re credible and important.”

Cahoon left with the impression that of all the jurisdictions beating a path to China’s door, B.C. has a bit more cachet than most.

Port Alberni Port Authority CEO Zoran Knezevic concurs with the view that B.C. and Clark present well on such missions.

He was impressed with her energy and enthusiasm. “I have nothing but positive things to say. I think we made a good impression.”

The dozens of people who represented B.C. all made good connections, including with one another.

“It’s funny how you have to go abroad to get to know the people in Victoria better,” he said.

Recounting her trip to a Vancouver audience on Tuesday, Clark shared some of the credit around for what she was the most successful of the four trade missions she has led since becoming premier 2 1/2 years ago.

International Trade Minister Teresa Wat, also responsible for the Asia-Pacific strategy, was singled out. Hong Kong-born, fluent in Cantonese and Mandarin, she’s the only trade minister of Chinese descent outside of China, Clark said.

Clark also found a “deep appreciation” of the fact Ben Stewart was named special trade representative. He was awarded the job after stepping aside from his Kelowna seat to make room for Clark in the legislature.

A recent B.C. financing move was also noted in China, she said.

Last month. B.C. became the first foreign government to issue bonds into the Chinese renminbi market. The $428-million offering was snapped up and is seen as a vote of confidence in that market.

Others will likely follow, but Clark said it will always be remembered that B.C. was first.

The thrust of the mission — the thrust of Clark’s entire government — is, of course, the liquefied natural gas projects.

All the salesmanship on the medium- to long-range goal overshadows the fact that B.C. Liberals don’t have much going on in the present when it comes to economic development.

That’s proven by monthly job-creation reports from Statscan, which show the province is limping along with no sign of any positive trend, despite the vaunted B.C. Jobs Plan.

It was advertised incessantly leading up to the election campaign and it’s the keystone policy of Clark’s government. But there’s no sign that it’s working.

In year-end interviews this week, Clark said she won the election by sticking to a plan and executing it. Tuesday, she said the same applies to the jobs plan.

The weak numbers are all the more reason to stick to the plan, she said. “The places that have a plan are the ones that are going to succeed.”

It’s good sales technique to sell the future, not the here and now. Clark’s outline of the trillion-dollar future is rosy, but it’s still a long way off.

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