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Report urges B.C. Liberals to put off name change until after next election

British Columbia Premier Christy Clark addresses the B.C. Liberals convention in Penticton, B.C. on May 14, 2011.

Jeff Bassett/The Globe and Mail

The B.C. Liberal Party name is confusing to some voters, but there's no time to change it before the next election without causing confusion, says a party committee that has been considering the issue.

The three-member committee, which included former finance minister Colin Hansen, found that a new party name might distract from aspects of the Liberal record, such as tax cuts that the party will be touting to voters as it seeks a fourth term in the May, 2013 election.

"Even if a name change were desirable, is there enough time to transition from the existing name to a new brand before the next election or would there be a risk that many voters would be more confused," said a report on the issue released Monday.

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The committee members suggested the issue be put to the party members following the 2013 election.

"There will be enough time, whether we're in government or not, leading up to the subsequent election to re-establish in the minds of the voters a new name and still have that associated with the successes we have brought to B.C. politics," Mr. Hansen said.

Premier Christy Clark had raised the idea, and it fell to the committee to look into the issue. Mr. Hansen said the party executive and Ms. Clark have accepted the committee's recommendations, but Ms. Clark's spokesperson did not respond to calls and an e-mail seeking comment by deadline.

While the issue has been cast as a drive to end confusion with the federal Liberals, it's also among strategies aimed at bolstering the fortunes of a party that has been lagging far behind the provincial NDP in the polls.

The name issue is likely to come up next month at a party convention in Whistler, where the Liberals will be aiming to reconsolidate a base that has fractured, with some centre-right voters joining the B.C. Conservatives, who also have no links to their federal namesake.

However, Mr. Hansen said he thought it unlikely there would be any convention move to overturn the committee's recommendation.

From 1903 to the late 1980s, the provincial Liberal party was associated with its federal counterpart, but the provincial party voted to break the link in 1991.

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Stil, Mr. Hansen said confusion exists. He recalled door-knocking for the Liberals in the recent Chilliwack-Hope by-election. "One person asked me about Trudeau. I kind of said, he's got nothing to do with our party."

Other voters, he said, declared they had never voted Liberal, but that they had voted for longtime B.C. Liberal MLA Barry Penner.

"Clearly there is an identity issue with some people," Mr. Hansen said.

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About the Author
B.C. reporter

Ian Bailey is a Vancouver-based reporter for The Globe and Mail.  He covers politics and general news. Prior to arriving at The Globe and Mail, he reported from Toronto and St. John’s for The Canadian Press.  He has also covered British Columbia for CP, The National Post and The Province. More


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