Clark picked to be British Columbia's new leader

Sat Feb 26, 2011 10:22pm EST
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VANCOUVER (Reuters) - British Columbia's governing Liberal Party elected Christy Clark as their new leader on Saturday, setting the stage for her to become premier of the resource-rich province on Canada's Pacific coast.

Clark will replace Liberal Premier Gordon Campbell, who announced in November that he wanted to step down. Campbell's public support was ravaged over a deal he stuck to merge the federal and provincial sales taxes.

Clark, a Vancouver radio host ran as the "outsider" in the Liberal leadership race in which she defeated three members of Campbell's cabinet. Clark won on the third ballot, but had led on the first two votes.

"My first priority will be to put families first," Clark said in her victory speech in Vancouver. "Change begins tonight."

The right-of-center provincial party is a coalition of federal Conservative and Liberal Party members, and Clark is viewed as being from the Liberal wing.

British Columbia's next provincial election is not scheduled until 2013, but Clark has said she would likely call one before then.

Polls have shown public support for the Liberals has largely rebounded over the left-leaning New Democrats since Campbell announced he would step down. The New Democrats will elect a new leader in April.

(Reporting Allan Dowd, Editing by Todd Eastham)

<p>Christy Clark waves to supporters after she was voted the new party leader during the BC Liberal Leadership Convention in Vancouver, British Columbia February 26, 2011. REUTERS/Andy Clark</p>