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Amateur Liberals not ready for 2011 general election

If the BC Liberal leadership campaign has demonstrated anything, it's how unprepared the party is to launch into a general election.

Of course, that would only happen if Christy Clark wins today and becomes premier. She is the only one of the candidates who has said she would go to the people for a broader mandate to govern before the scheduled date of the next election in May, 2013.

Even if she wanted to, Ms. Clark couldn't pull the trigger for six months - that is how long Elections B.C. has said it needs to get ready for an early call. Besides, Ms. Clark has also said it would be dirty pool to call an election while the NDP is undergoing a leadership race of its own.

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Those factors aside, the Liberals - at least party headquarters - have demonstrated that they are in no way ready to bear the responsibility of launching a major campaign. The party could barely run a leadership contest.

Of course, by now everyone knows the problem the party had making sure all registered party members had their secret voting IDs - or PINs - in time for today's vote. And how long did it have to prepare for this day? Four months? Come on.

The last few days have been amateur hour at party headquarters. And I say that while acknowledging some sympathy for executive director Chad Pederson, who was thrown into the job in December. The circumstances around his predecessor Kelly Reichert's abrupt departure, just as the leadership campaign was getting started, remain perplexing. Why leave and hand the job to your communications person when experience is precisely what you need at the top when launching a leadership campaign?

Mr. Reichert had 15 years in the position.

I assume that it was because he left so quickly that there was no time to do an extensive search for someone to replace him. Someone, perhaps, with a little more know-how than Mr. Pederson.

Beyond the PIN fiasco, there were also problems with the way the membership sign-up forms were used by some of the candidates. More than 6,000 had to be thrown out. The race saw cats being signed up as people. Most agree there wasn't enough time allotted to properly vet all of the new members.

Those issues aside, the other reason the party is in no position to jump into an early election is because of money. The BC Liberal party is in major debt. The latest word is it remains more than $5-million in the hole, although the leadership race should help put a dint in it. Still, there certainly isn't the war chest you need to launch an expensive provincial campaign.

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My guess is regardless of who wins today, the next general election won't happen until 2013 as scheduled.

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About the Author
National affairs columnist

Gary Mason began his journalism career in British Columbia in 1981, working as a summer intern for Canadian Press. More

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