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May 25, 2014

Two Leaders, Two Bios

Many employers require those applying for a job to provide a detailed resume and they want to know what the applicant was doing during any gaps in employment. Since politicians work for us, we should know this information about Christy Clark and John Horgan as we look ahead to the 2017 general election.

Christina Joan "Christy" Clark was born in Burnaby on October 29, 1965, the youngest of Mavis and Jim Clark's four children. Her father was a BC Liberal activist, running unsuccessfully four times. Clark graduated from Burnaby South Senior Secondary in 1983 and went on to study at SFU. After becoming the president of the University's Young Liberals' Club, in 1988 she was elected as the Student Society's Internal Relations Officer. The next year she ran for President of the Student Society, winning by just six votes. According to the student paper, The Peak, she was subsequently declared disqualified due to election irregularities. She then ran but lost in the by-election to fill the position. She left SFU without earning a degree and went on to study briefly at the Sorbonne (Paris, France) and the University of Edinburgh (Scotland, UK). Clark went to work as a researcher for the BC Liberals in 1991. Two months before Gordon Campbell replaced Gordon Wilson as BC Liberal Leader, Clark left to work for the federal Liberals in Ottawa as assistant to Transportation Minister Doug Young. She returned to BC to run in the May 28, 1996 general election, winning the seat in Port Moody-Burnaby Mountain. In Ottawa she worked with Mark Marissen, later her husband and father of her only son Hamish Marissen-Clark, born in 2001 when Clark was Minister of Education and Deputy Premier. They have since divorced but Marissen continues to be a staunch political supporter of Clark and a co-parent of Hamish.

John Horgan was born in Victoria on August 7, 1959, the youngest of Alice and Pat Horgan's four children. His father died when John was just one and a half. His mother supported her young family by working at Saanich municipal hall until she retired. John graduated from Reynolds High School in Victoria, where he was active in sports and student council president in his final year. He earned his BA at Trent University (Ontario) in 1983 and married Ellie in 1984. (His two boys have just graduated from university.) He waited tables at the Keg in Victoria before heading to Australia where he earned his Masters degree in history at Sydney University in 1986. Returning to Canada he went to Ottawa and worked as a legislative assistant to Jim Manly, and later to Lynn Hunter. Horgan returned to Victoria in 1991 and became Ministerial Assistant to Dave Zirnhelt. In 1993 he was named Analyst, Policy Coordination Branch, Ministry of Government Services, and in 1996, Director at the Cabinet Policy and Communications Secretariat, Ministry of Finance and Corporate Relations. His positions from 1991 through 1998 saw him assume increasing responsibilities within government, including lead negotiator on the Columbian Basin Trust and as a participant on teams for the Columbia River Treaty and Land Use Plans. In 1998 he worked as a Director in the Crown Corporations Secretariat before going on to work at Columbia Power as Director of Corporate Affairs, focusing on getting Keenleyside and Brilliant dams repowered. In 1999 he was appointed Chief of Staff in the Office of Premier Dan Miller. His last job in government was at the level of Associate Deputy Minister working in the Ministry of Finance on energy projects. Following the change of government in 2001, Horgan went on to form Idea Works to do government liaison work with other former government staff. In 2005 he was elected MLA for Malahat-Juan de Fuca. That was the year Christy Clark decided not to run; she wrote a weekly column for the Vancouver Province and Vancouver Sun newspapers during that election.

Clark and Horgan both started work in the BC Legislature in the early 90s, one for government and one for the opposition. You'd never know that if you only paid attention to the Liberal view of the 90s. The truth is Clark is as much a product of those years as is Horgan, one rooted in ever increasing responsibilities as a political staffer within government, the other working her way through positions in Opposition. As for elected office, Clark is far more solidly rooted in the 90s, first elected in 1996, compared to Horgan who wasn't elected until 2005.

While Horgan was earning his spurs as a new member of the Official Opposition and critic on the energy file, Clark was campaigning for the NPA nomination for mayor of Vancouver, losing to Sam Sullivan by just 69 votes. He was elected mayor and then MLA for Vancouver-False Creek in 2013, making him a member of Clark's caucus. In 2007 she was hired by CKNW as a talk show host, a position she held until she decided in December 2010 to run for the BC Liberal leadership.

On February 26, 2011 Clark won the leadership on the third ballot and was sworn in as Premier on March 14, 2011. She went on to win a by-election in Vancouver-Point Grey on May 11, 2011. It is ironic that between her swearing in as Premier and her by-election win, the Supreme Court of British Columbia ruled on April 13 that most of the legislation Clark had introduced when she was Minister of Education in 2002 was unconstitutional. The sour relationship she helped to establish with BC's teachers continues to hang over government as it attempts to deal with decisions it lost in court while attempting to negotiate a new agreement with the BCTF.

Nothing in Clark's biographies mention her role with John Park and RCI Capital Group, but it was recently revealed that she was appointed chair of an RCI international education subsidiary in September 2007. The subsidiary was dissolved in 2011, shortly after Clark became Premier. Clark said she was never paid as a result of that appointment and BC's Conflict Commissioner has said what happened before she became an MLA in May 2011 was not in his jurisdiction.

Clark and Horgan appear to have many similarities in their backgrounds; both have million watt smiles. The evenly matched leaders of the BC Liberals and the BC NDP should provide a far more interesting election campaign than was witnessed in 2013.