The outgoing executive director of the B.C. Liberal Party says there’s “heightened interest” in finding a new name for the organization.
According to Chad Pederson, this is being driven by members who want a label that is “reflective of our coalition”, a reference to the provincial party’s reputation as an alliance between federal Liberals and Conservatives.
“This discussion, which has been more something that would happen occasionally between friends in a social setting…is now taking place at our party’s local board meetings,” Pederson told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview. “It’s really become something where more people are discussing it in a more formalized setting.”
However, the B.C. NDP’s Vancouver–West End MLA, Spencer Chandra Herbert, says that any such makeover will not work. “It sounds like they’re trying to go into witness protection,” Herbert quipped during a phone interview. “People change their names when they’re trying to hide from their past.”
That change may come in the fall, when B.C. Liberals hold their convention. Premier Christy Clark has said that she’s not opposed to having a new name for the party.
This is happening against the backdrop of the crack that opened in the right end of the political spectrum after the recent emergence of the B.C. Conservative Party. There are calls for the two parties to find a way to cooperate to prevent New Democrats from winning government in the 2013 general election.
Marketing professional Hector Bremner noted that it’s going to be a challenge to pick a brand that will stick. He’s a B.C. Liberal who wants to be nominated as candidate for New Westminster.
“A name change or no, the party is in a very strong position moving forward,” Bremner told the Straight in a phone interview.
This confidence is echoed by former B.C. Liberal leader Pat McGeer. Long retired from politics but still active in the academic world as a medical researcher, McGeer indicated that Clark can pull off a victory in the same way that Alberta Progressive Conservative premier Alison Redford fashioned an upset over challenger Danielle Smith of the Wildrose Party.
“Look at what happened in Alberta,” McGeer told the Straight in a phone interview. “If you believe the polls, she can’t. If the polls are wrong by 20 points, as was the case in Alberta, she’ll win easy.”
Redford trailed Smith in the polls leading up to the April 23 election, the results of which defied pollsters’ predictions. Clark and her party are currently lagging behind the NDP in the polls, but the situation in B.C. is quite different. Where Redford and Smith are both firmly on the right, Clark and her Liberals not only have to catch up with the left-leaning NDP, they also have to fend off a raid from the right by the B.C. Conservatives.
However, McGeer doesn’t believe the B.C. Liberal Party needs a name change. For the 1975 election, he merged the party with the rebuilt Social Credit party.
“That doesn’t accomplish anything,” he said about a new brand. “The B.C. Liberals, as a governing party, have to convince the public that they are better off voting for them rather than voting for the Conservatives.”
When the party held its leadership contest last year, McGeer donated to the campaign of Kevin Falcon, a known federal Conservative and now provincial finance minister. Asked if a victory by Falcon, and not the federal Liberal Clark, would have tamed the B.C. Conservative challenge to the right-wing base, McGeer responded: “That’s speculation. Whoever took power had a difficult task because a lot of baggage was inherited. That’s what happens when you’re the leader. You inherit the baggage. So the leader takes credit if things go well, takes the blame if they don’t.”