B.C. Premier Christy Clark hoping for Bollywood ending come election time, says columnist

MICHAEL SMYTH
VANCOUVER DESI

Christy Clark

British Columbia Premier Christy Clark holds up a Times of India Film Awards trophy during a press conference in Vancouver, B.C., on Tuesday January 22, 2013, announcing the event will be held in the city in April. Darryl Dyck/CP

The original idea to bring a Bollywood film extravaganza to Vancouver likely occurred to Premier Christy Clark in June 2011, when she was in Toronto for a speech.

Clark stayed at the ritzy Royal York Hotel — the same hotel where a number of Bollywood movie stars were embedded for the International Indian Film Academy Awards event.

The hotel was crawling with Indian film stars, producers, media and various hangers-on. Limos lined the curb outside, where fans and paparazzi clamoured for a glimpse of the Bollywood glitterati.

Clark was intrigued to learn the event was bankrolled to the tune of $12 million by the Ontario government, then in pre-election mode.

I’m certain Clark became even more intrigued after Dalton McGuinty’s Liberals managed to defy the pundits and pollsters and win re-election in Ontario that fall.

The moral of the story: If you think the Bollywood film awards now winging their way to Vancouver are all about cultural exchange and tourism marketing, then I’ve got a bridge in Mumbai I’d like to sell you.

This is about politics.

During that Toronto trip, Clark got a first-hand look at the excitement generated by the Bollywood movie industry within the politically dynamic Indo-Canadian community.

McGuinty and his cabinet ministers played starring roles at the various galas and events surrounding the Toronto festival. Now watch for Clark and her B.C. Liberals to soak up the limelight here, too.

The Indo-Canadian vote will be crucial in the May election in several closely contested ridings, especially in Surrey, where Clark’s Liberals will be in tooth-and-nail battles with the NDP.

The Indo-Canadian vote is also important in several Fraser Valley ridings, where the Liberals now are in unexpected trouble.

So bring on the Bollywood star power.

“A lot of callers to my show are saying it’s nothing but a political gimmick,” talk-show host Gurpreet Singh, of Surrey-based Radio India, told me Wednesday.

“I don’t think it will mean much for decided voters. But people love Bollywood stars. When they see Christy Clark with these stars, maybe it will make a difference with some undecideds.”

The event, which will cost B.C. taxpayers $11 million, is clearly designed to extract the most positive political impact in the community at the most opportune time: Three days of hype and hoopla, just a month before the election.

Unfortunately for Clark, it comes at the same time British Columbia’s own domestic film industry is taking a beating and pleading with the government for help. Thousands of industry workers rallied in support of their cause Tuesday night in North Vancouver.

But Clark — a master of political mistiming — has rejected the local industry’s requests for juicier tax credits, creating the impression she’s lavishing money on foreign filmmakers while our own domestic sector gets the shaft.

NDP leader Adrian Dix seized on the contradiction Wednesday and jetted off to L.A. for two days of meetings with film executives, while accusing the Liberals of abandoning the B.C. industry.

I have a feeling Clark may have to climb down — again — and sweeten the pot for the B.C. film sector. In the meantime, the Bollywood show must go on, as Clark soaks up every star-powered photo-op, and vote, she can find.


Times of India Film Awards press conference


Picture 1 of 13

Indian actress Chitrangada Singh holds a trophy during an event in Vancouver, B.C., on Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2013, announcing that The Times of India Film Awards will be held in the city in April. Darryl Dyck/CP

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