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British Columbia Premier Gordon Campbell speaks at a news conference April 30, 2010.Troy Fleece/The Canadian Press

There has to be a change at the top for the B.C. Liberal Party to have any chance of winning the next election, two prominent party members declared Monday.

Scott Nelson, who served four years on the Liberals' provincial council, said he is encouraging members to vote against endorsing Gordon Campbell's continued leadership in a secret, pre-convention ballot to begin shortly.

"Members are so disillusioned and upset at what's going on over the HST, they are walking away and throwing their hands up," said Mr. Nelson, former mayor of Williams Lake who lost last year by a whisker in his bid for the Liberal nomination in his riding.

"They're angry, frustrated, and disappointed. They feel alienated, just like the public," he said. "And the person who has set this in motion is Gordon Campbell. … When the party is so beat up, you've got to have a change."

Blair Lekstrom, who resigned as energy minister last June over the HST and is no longer part of the Liberal caucus, said he did not want to advise Mr. Campbell on what to do.

"He's done so much for this province, but I think there has to be a change, and relatively soon, if there's going to be any recovery for the province's right-of-centre party, which is the B.C. Liberals," Mr. Lekstrom said.

"Without question, I think that change has to happen sooner, rather than later."

Despite his high-profile resignation from the cabinet and the caucus, Mr. Lekstrom said he retains his Liberal membership and is considering attending the party convention in November.

"I'm not saying yes or no, but I'm looking at it," he said. "I obviously disagree with the direction our party is going. It's time we put the brakes on and began to engage the public."

If he does decide to show up, that's the message he would take to the convention, said Mr. Lekstrom.

Fuelled by public anger over the controversial HST, the Liberals have been plummeting for months in public opinion polls and now trail the opposition by a wide margin.

Mr. Nelson said the Premier is no longer listening to the right-of-centre coalition forces that form the basis of the Liberal Party and helped bring him to power.

"That feeling has been brewing within the B.C. Liberal Party since the HST legislation came down. That coalition is starting to break apart and splinter."

He predicted further dissension to erupt among prominent Liberals over the next few weeks, including MLAs.

"A lot of what I'm saying publicly is what's on people's minds right now. It's what they're talking about. They see the writing on the wall."

The comments by Mr. Nelson come just as the Liberal Party begins an internal process to review Mr. Campbell's leadership, in advance of its convention Nov. 19-20 in Penticton.

Donna Barnett, Liberal MLA for Cariboo-Chilcotin who nosed out Mr. Nelson for the party nomination, said she won't be one of those fuelling disaffection within party ranks over the HST.

But she fell far short of offering her government a ringing endorsement over its handling of the 12-per-cent levy.

"I support the tax, but I don't like the way it was implemented," Ms. Barnett said. "This was one of the worst public-relations jobs ever done. I'm the first to admit that."

As to the party's chances in the next election, should Mr. Campbell remain as Premier, Ms. Barnett said: "The polls are absolutely terrible. I think the Premier will do what he feels is the right thing, for himself and for the Liberal Party."

At local meetings over the next month or so, members can vote by secret ballot on whether the Premier should stay as party leader.

Results will be unveiled at the convention.

Mr. Nelson urged disaffected members to show up and vote. "Instead of just walking way, make sure your voice is heard. If you give up and don't vote, then the ballot will not reflect what the membership thinks."

He said Mr. Campbell has done "some fantastic things" as premier.

"I think his heart is in the right place, but I think it's now time for Gordon Campbell to really assess what's in the best interests of British Columbians, the B.C. Liberal Party and Gordon Campbell."