Veteran political observer Norman Ruff boils down to four words what he considers the winning message that should be delivered to voters by the politician who will eventually emerge as the new B.C. Liberal leader.
“I’m not Gordon Campbell,” Ruff spelled out in a phone interview with the Straight. “That should be the gist of the message. Mr. Campbell had admitted that he has become a millstone around the neck of the B.C. Liberal Party. If the party is to rebrand itself, it has to shake loose from the shadow that he has cast over the B.C. Liberal brand.”
According to the retired University of Victoria political-science professor, leadership aspirants can start doing so by being more apologetic about how the unpopular harmonized sales tax was introduced by the provincial government.
“There has to be a starting point to show more contriteness on the adoption of the HST,” Ruff said.
UVic political-science professor Dennis Pilon said in a separate phone interview with the Straight that the “new leader has to try to do something that will say to the voters, ”˜This is different than what we were having before.’”
“That would say to voters, ”˜Somebody new is in charge,’” Pilon said. “If you want the job, you want to keep the job, then you’re going to have to distance yourself from Gordon Campbell because that’s the guy everybody hates.”
Pilon noted that the B.C. Liberals have a core of centre-right voters who are simply unhappy with the way they’ve been treated by the ruling party.
“If the Liberals can come up with a credible candidate, one that they believe in, that they think they can trust, then I think it’s quite possible that the party can romp to another victory,” the UVic professor added.
Fred Cutler, a UBC political-science professor, said in a phone interview with the Straight that the party could remain a viable brand if it can dissociate itself from Campbell’s legacy.
“It might be possible to succeed in a leadership race and then to win an election if one said, ”˜We’re not Gordon Campbell’s Liberal party and we’ll listen to the people and we’ll cancel the HST and not let the urban core of Vancouver and Victoria run this province,” Cutler said.