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Christy Clark Show keeps heads spinning

Welcome to the Christy Clark Show now broadcasting from Victoria. And, if it is a new day, Christy has a new opinion, which may differ from yesterdays opinion. But what the heck, thats the talk show business.

Welcome to the Christy Clark Show now broadcasting from Victoria. And, if it is a new day, Christy has a new opinion, which may differ from yesterdays opinion. But what the heck, thats the talk show business.

Except now when Clark pops off, she is actually speaking as the premier of the province. Which is why, every time she heads towards a scrum of reporters, her staff shudders.

And this week the boys and girls tasked with keeping Clark from ending up in the ditch are in deep damage control.

The particular issue is the tentative funding deal between the Minster of Transportation Blair Lekstrom and the Lower Mainland Mayors Council on Regional Transportation.

You may recall it was just last week that both the province and the mayors agreed to a deal that caused them both to reverse long standing positions. The province agreed to hike the gas tax by two cents, which would then be turned over to TransLink. And the mayors agreed to jack up property taxes a smidgen.

This was all in aid of finally figuring out a funding formula so TransLink could pay its share of the long, long, long promised Evergreen line to service the northeast sector of the region, as well as improving a variety of other public transit services.

A week later, and after a number of editorialists lambasted the gas tax increase, Clark turned up at a microphone and joined the chorus. That gas tax she says is not affordable for families. And then she actually blamed the mayors for coming up with the idea of increasing the gas tax.

If you didnt know any better and you were caught up in the anti-tax mood that has settled over the province, in large part thanks to the HST debate, you may be inclined to think Clark was on to a good thing.

But here is what actually happened.

For several days before the mayors agreed to the deal, a number of them, including West Vancouvers Pamela Goldsmith-Jones, Surreys Dianne Watts, and Vancouvers Gregor Robertson, were in detailed phone discussions with Lekstrom. They were all intent on finding a way through the funding roadblock. And so, it appears, they did.

On July 5, the day before the meeting of mayors to vote on the deal to raise the gas tax and increase property taxes, they all received a letter from Lekstrom with two funding options. The first option outlined the deal that would be approved. There was also the commitment to pass legislation on the gas tax hike this fall.

Goldsmith-Jones took the first option in the ministers letter and turned it into a motion that the Mayors Council then passed at a meeting with Lekstrom. After the meeting Lekstrom complimented the mayors for their hard work in coming up with a plan. And Goldsmith-Jones told reporters, It is really great for us to be acting in concert with the minister.

Now, given the way government works, it is unfathomable to believe that the premiers office did not sign off on this complex multi-million dollar deal. After all the provincial government already has $410 million on the table along with $417 million from Ottawa to build the Evergreen Line.

Then there was a commitment outlined in Lekstroms letter involving a major policy shift which gives more of the gas tax to the region and a commitment to bring in legislation to make it so.

Nobody should know this better than one-time deputy premier and former minister of two separate ministries, now-Premier Christy Clark.

Yet a week after the deal was agreed to, Clark tossed both Lekstrom and the regions mayors under the bus. The gas tax increase was unaffordable for families.

That was Monday. And the regions mayors were at the point of open rebellion. On Wednesday, Clark changed her opinion. In a letter to the mayors she said she was pleased to see agreement on the funding proposal.

Tune in next week to see if she changes her mind again.

agarr@vancourier.com