Opinion Column

Christy Clark's 'empathy deficit' over deaths could be Achilles' heel in B.C. election

Bill Tieleman

By Bill Tieleman, News, Views, and Attitude – 24 hours

Premier of British Columbia Christy Clark. (Chris Jackson/Getty Images/Files)

Premier of British Columbia Christy Clark. (Chris Jackson/Getty Images/Files)

“I think there’s an empathy deficit here and I think that leaders can afford to make mistakes in different areas but not empathy.”

- CKNW Radio host Charles Adler, April 7, on Premier Christy Clark

Premier Christy Clark’s “empathy deficit” could be her Achilles’ heel in the B.C. election based on her response last week to a report on the suicide death of health researcher Roderick MacIsaac after he was wrongly fired by the B.C. government.

Clark is a formidable campaigner – and beat long odds to defeat the B.C. New Democrats in 2013.

But Clark enters the 2017 election with a 2-1 disapproval rating by British Columbians in polls – and rather than trying to improve her image, the premier is increasingly out of touch on sensitive issues.

Clark’s reaction to Ombudsperson Jay Chalke’s report into the unfair firing of MacIsaac and seven other researchers was stunningly insensitive, appalling conservative CKNW radio host Charles Adler.

“Today the CEO of the government of B.C., Premier Christy Clark, had a chance to give a human face of contrition, of responsibility, of professionalism, and I’m afraid to say ... our premier failed on all three,” Adler said last Friday.

“She owes the family of Roderick MacIsaac a personal apology ... and she should have made that today,” Adler continued. “There was not a shred of empathy.”

“Now, we’re close to an election – is this not a risky time for her to come across as a bit of a Marie Antoinette?” Adler asked.

But it’s not just Clark’s response to what is clearly one of the worst wrongful firing cases in B.C. history – it goes well beyond that.

Last week health officials reported that over 100 people have died from fentanyl overdoses in Vancouver alone so far this year – and where was Clark’s empathy for those lost souls or their families?

Nowhere. The premier has made no comments despite those grim statistics meaning 400 could die from fentanyl-laced drugs this year.

Worse still, addicts who want to stop taking drugs can’t get into publicly-funded rehabilitation programs without waiting months.

The late comedian George Burns once said: “Sincerity – if you can fake that, you’ve got it made.”

Clark no longer seems even willing to fake sincerity – let alone have any real empathy –and that could be politically fatal.

Bill Tieleman is a former NDP strategist. Read his blog at http://billtieleman.blogspot.com or Email: weststar@telus.net Twitter: @BillTieleman