Chong reflects on ‘volatile’ 2011

Recall campaign, leadership race and HST defeat helped keep MLA busy

  • Dec. 23, 2011 2:00 p.m.

After what she describes as “the most interesting year” of her career, Ida Chong says she’s looking forward to 2012 as a year to “settle in, get some stability back and tackle the job at hand.”

The Oak Bay-Gordon Head MLA, first elected to the Legislature in 1996, had a busy 2011, fighting a recall campaign directed at ousting her from office. She also watched the leadership of her Liberal party switch hands, and dealt with the fallout of the referendum that defeated the contentious HST.

“No question it was a politically volatile year,” she said, mentioning May’s federal election, municipal elections in November and the opposition New Democrats also seeing a leadership change.

“I can certainly say this Christmas is less stressful than last Christmas,” Chong said.

The Fight HST recall campaign named Chong its first target in early December 2010. Petitioners were given two months to gather 15,368 signatures supporting her recall. The campaign ultimately failed in early February.

“This time last year, regardless of what people had to say, I had to still be out there. … It was in my face the entire time,” she said. “Looking back, I’m glad I can put that behind me, but I’m also reflective that as hard as it was, I learned along through that process.”

She says the greatest lesson from this year came from fighting the recall.

“You can work hard as an MLA. You can think people are paying attention to the good things you’re doing. But if you don’t communicate and share the good work, people don’t know – and that works against you,” she said. “You can’t take being a politician for granted.”

After Gordon Campbell resigned in March, Chong says she was glad some stability returned when Christy Clark was named premier.

While fighting recall, Chong held two ministerial portfolios – Sciences and Universities, and Regional Economic and Skills Development. She was moved to the Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development in March.

Under her new title, some of the key initiatives she’s undertaken include the community gaming grant review and the announcement of a municipal auditor general.

“There were some pretty key things I had to deal with,” she said.

For 2012, Chong says the biggest priority for B.C. will be to focus on the economy: balance the budget and create local jobs.

“A big issue will be putting back in place a two-tax system, as opposed to one. It’s not simple … and it’s going to be a challenge to get that balanced budget,” she said. “Now I can focus on my ministry, and start getting things happening. Let’s work on the sports side of things and the cultural side of things to see how groups can contribute to our jobs plan. We all will have to work towards our common goal.”

kslavin@saanichnews.com