It has not been a job known for its long-term security. Before yesterday's general election in British Columbia, only four other premiers had lasted in office long enough to win back-to-back elections.
The fact that Liberal Leader Gordon Campbell has now become the fifth would have to be considered a monumental achievement. Yet when he contemplates his renewed mandate he doesn't revel in the personal accomplishment it represents, but prefers to imagine the opportunities it brings.
"What I think we have now in British Columbia is a chance to recapture that optimism, that pride, that drove the province when I was a kid," Mr. Campbell told The Globe and Mail in an interview several days before the election. "Back then there was no sense of a limit in terms of what British Columbia could accomplish. I think we are on the verge of a period in our history that is similar in terms of how we feel about where we live and the potential that exists to be truly great."
There's little question that B.C. returned to its feet nicely after a long period of political instability and economic turmoil that saw the province's standing in Canada drop significantly. And while you can debate how much credit Mr. Campbell's government deserves for the province's economic resurgence in the past few years, there's little doubt it was a central factor in the Liberals' victory yesterday.
A strong economy is the foundation upon which everything the Liberals hope to accomplish in government is built.
Mr. Campbell articulated his chief objectives for the next four years and beyond at one campaign stop after another throughout the election. He even gave them a title: Five great goals for a golden decade.
Make B.C. the best educated, most literate jurisdiction on the continent;
Lead North America in healthy living and physical fitness;
Build the best support system in Canada for persons with disabilities, special needs, children at risk and seniors;
Lead the world in sustainable environmental management, with the best air and water quality and best fisheries management;
Create more jobs per capital than anywhere else in Canada.
Today, Mr. Campbell says these were not empty campaign pledges. They are for real and there is nothing that gives him more delight than crossing off items like these on his personal to-do list. He said the goals he has outlined would be the most important ones his government attempts to meet over the course of its mandate.
"But remember, these are goals for a decade," Mr. Campbell said. "So I'm not sure we're going to accomplish them all in the next four years. But we'll have to make substantial progress towards them. But if you want an idea of some of the main areas we'll be pursuing as a government, those five are a good place to start."
But while his goals for a "golden decade" provide some overarching themes for the next four years, there are other areas the government in general and the Premier in particular will be focusing on. Maybe none more so than the 2010 Winter Games.
A big booster of the Olympics, Mr. Campbell is aware of the positive economic reverberations a megaproject like the Games can generate. Construction alone can create thousands of jobs in the lead- up to any Games. But Mr. Campbell is just as aware of the economic sinkholes that can sometimes swallow up cities hosting Olympic Games, Winter or Summer. The government of Greece, for instance, is believed to be facing a debt of more than $10-billion from the 2004 Olympics.
The B.C. government will want to insure it isn't dragged down in any way by the Olympics, something Mr. Campbell is confident won't happen because of the leadership of Games president John Furlong and members of his Vancouver Organizing Committee.
"For me, the Olympics represents more than just sports," Mr. Campbell said. "I think it's really about excellence in general. The Governor of Utah told me when you get the Games everyone raises their game. From the airport security officer to the retailer to the banker. They all get better because the Olympics are here and that culture of excellence starts to permeate the province.
"I'm a huge supporter of the Olympics and what they can do for us, but it won't happen if we don't take advantage of it."
During the campaign, Mr. Campbell mused about opening the Games as B.C. premier but stopped short of saying he'd seek a third term. Gary Mauser, a political science professor at Simon Fraser University, said he believes one of Mr. Campbell's main goals in the next four years will be to try to ensure his re-election so he can realize his dream of playing host to the Games as premier.