Three months ago, the B.C. Liberals were considered a tired government facing certain defeat in the next election.
Fast forward and the party has shed its once mighty leader, Premier Gordon Campbell, and is poised to at least double its membership, the party says.
The level of renewed interest in the B.C. Liberals is expected to be revealed Friday as the six leadership candidates vying to replace Mr. Campbell on Feb. 26 meet the deadline to sign up new party members.
Though nobody from the leadership camps or the B.C. Liberal party will provide their own sign-up numbers, the general agreement is that party membership is expected to at least double on Friday to 70,000 members.
"They're strong," is the official Liberal Party comment on the membership sign-ups, said party spokeswoman Lilian Kim.
She said the party plans to provide a more detailed update days after the deadline.
One Liberal insider who said he's confident he's had access to current membership sign-up numbers said the party has already received 20,000 completed membership forms.
Of those 20,000 forms, 18,000 are for new members and 2,000 are membership renewals, the insider said.
Former B.C. attorney general Geoff Plant, who is not officially affiliated with any of the six leadership candidates, said the membership drive offers British Columbians a unique opportunity, one that likely only happens once in a generation.
The $10, four-year membership, gives Liberals the chance to elect a new party leader and premier with the same vote, he said.
"It's a mistake for people who are interested in how we're governed to kind of hang back and be wallflowers right now when they've got a real opportunity to be a participant and to help choose the next premier," said Mr. Plant.
The likelihood that Liberal party members from every corner of the province will hold equal voting power at the convention is equally inviting, he said.
The party will vote on Feb. 12 to approve a weighted ballot system to elect the new leader, as opposed to the current one-member, one-vote system.
Party members will rank their candidates in order of preference and the weighted ballot gives members from each of the province's 85 ridings equal voting power.
Plant said some ridings will have thousands of Liberal members, while in ridings where the Liberals may not hold the seat and party members are fewer, their voting power increases because they are representing possibly hundreds of members as opposed to thousands in stronger Liberal ridings.
"Their votes are going to count as much or more than the votes in constituencies that may have a couple thousand members," he said.
Gavin Dew, a former Campbell campaign worker who now represents Vancouver-based Build 2030, a not-for-profit group which caters to what it calls the next generation of British Columbia's movers and shakers, said Mr. Campbell's resignation appears to have ignited political interest among many young people.
"It's really incredible to look at where things were a couple of months ago," he said. "Basically it was if they didn't screw it up, the NDP were government. Now it looks like they've managed to shoot themselves in the foot."
When Mr. Campbell announced on Nov. 3 he was stepping down, his personal approval rating was in the single digits. But then some members of the NDP caucus started to openly question Carole James's leadership, prompting her resignation last month.
Now both parties are in leadership races, with the Liberals electing a new leader in less than a month and the NDP leadership vote set for April 17.
The six Liberal leadership candidates are former cabinet ministers George Abbott, Kevin Falcon, Moira Stilwell and Mike de Jong, and former cabinet minister, turned radio host Christy Clark and former Parksville mayor Ed Mayne.
The six NDP leadership candidates are James supporters Adrian Dix, Mike Farnworth and John Horgan and Ms. James dissidents Harry Lali and Nicholas Simons and pot activist Dana Larsen.
Veteran conservative campaign strategist Rod Love, who is now working for the de Jong camp, said Friday's membership sign-up deadline marks a significant turning point in the leadership campaign.
He said he expects the campaign to heat up quickly now that the candidates have met their responsibility of attracting and identifying new members.
"It's going to change on Feb. 4," said Mr. Love, who orchestrated campaigns for former Alberta premier Ralph Klein and worked with Stockwell Day when he was federal Opposition leader.
"The coin of the realm right now is sales, selling memberships to the party to people to vote for Mike de Jong," he said. "Once the membership sales are cut off on the fourth, now we've got three weeks to close the deal."
Mr. Love dismissed speculation that leadership candidates will arrive at party headquarters with loads of new members. The party allows each candidate to possess only a certain number of membership books at one time, and only when those books are completed do they receive new ones, he said.
Backroom Liberal stalwart Norman Stowe, who is working with Mr. Falcon, said the Falcon team realized early on how big a part social media and new technology would play in attracting new members.
He said one of the best investments of Mr. Falcon's campaign was purchasing iPads for membership sign ups. The younger crowd gravitate to them and often sign up on line, said Mr. Stowe.
He said Liberal membership numbers will play a huge role in Mr. Falcon's leadership bid.