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One Year after Big Win, BC Liberal Swagger Shines

Conventioneers told to ignore 'holy trinity' of pundits, pollsters, political scientists.

By Andrew MacLeod 24 May 2014 | TheTyee.ca

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee's Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Find him on Twitter or reach him here.

A year after unexpectedly forming a fourth majority government, the BC Liberals are looking towards the 2017 vote and are hungry to keep their winning streak going.

Sharon White, who will continue as party president after being acclaimed with three other members of the executive whom nobody ran against, welcomed hundreds of delegates to the party's convention in Kelowna this weekend with a speech reminding them of last May's victory.

"When we met last in Whistler in 2012, we were warned of the holy trinity of people who don't know what they're talking about: the pundits, the pollsters and the political scientists," she said.

"We did heed that warning, and so we just continued on our job, which was to pursue our plan to win the election with a laser-like focus,” she said. "When the polls closed on May 14 you may recall the holy trinity being stunned by the result, but we weren't."

Campaign workers found their message warmly received, she said. She thanked them for the effort, and warned, "We can't rest on our laurels. The next election is only three years away."

The party has a new website built by Vancouver's Invoke Media. It's "further modernizing" communications, diversifying its donor base and is strong financially, she said. "We have come out of this last election in far better financial shape than we did in 2009."

But while some things change, others stay the same. On Saturday, delegates voted nearly unanimously to keep the BC Liberal name. Long-time Liberal minister Rich Coleman described it as a good brand. “We can win in 2017 with the BC Liberal label," he said.

The convention's primary sponsors are Johnson and Johnson, Progressive Waste Management, the BC Hotel Association and the New Car Dealers Association of BC.

New team, old theme

The theme of the meeting is "strong economy, secure tomorrow," a slogan the party has used since at least last April when it appeared in a Christy Clark infomercial. Party staff, including executive director Laura Miller, wore bright yellow construction safety vests, complete with name tags and reflective strips, but no hard hats.

Premier Clark wore safety gear made to fit, her name on a patch, through much of last year's campaign.

Brad Bennett, the son of former Social Credit premier Bill Bennett and the grandson of former Social Credit premier W.A.C. Bennett, observed that John Horgan's first event after becoming leader of the NDP involved wearing a hard hat (though he did not actually mention Horgan by name).

In the new NDP leader's first week on the job, said Bennett, he "stood up in the house and told everybody that he was for jobs, economy, resources and family. Really? Really? I mean come on, where have we heard that? That was the core of Christy Clark's platform."

Horgan, he said, "tried to stake his ground on our ground."

It's understandable, he said. "Of course that's going to be their inclination, because we have a relevant message. The NDP are going to try to fashion themselves like us. They're going to try to fool the voters again that they're like us."

They will "ride the fence" on resource projects to develop the economy, but the opposition includes interests that tend to pull towards 'no', Bennett said. "They don't get to 'yes' like we do," he said. "Free enterprisers are 'yes' people. We know how to get to 'yes'. We don't think about 'no.'"

'We get shit done'

The recipe has been successful for the Socreds and BC Liberals, he said. "Over the past 60 some odd years in British Columbia's general election history, free enterprisers have won 14 of 17 elections," he said. "Free enterprise governments have governed British Columbia over 80 per cent of that time."

Free enterprisers believe less government is better government and that taxes should be low, he said. "It's about working for the needs of the individual in the province of British Columbia."

The party came out stronger from last year's election, he said. "Since the last election, party membership is up," he said. "Forty per cent of the delegates and observers to this convention have never attended [before]... This is a grassroots free enterprise movement that is not only thriving, it's growing."

The party should keep front of mind that campaigns matter and that "we get shit done" (though he said "we get stuff done" should be the public version).

Kevin Sigouin, the party's secretary, reminded delegates, "The world is changed by those who show up."

Treasurer Jeremy Pierce said the party has nearly $3 million in assets and has already paid off a million of the $3-million bank loan it took on to fight last year's election.

"We came out of the election 2013 a heck of a lot better than we did in 2009," he said.

The party had $14 million in revenue last year, compared to $12 million in 2009, the year of the previous election. It also had $17 million in expenses, compared with $17.5 million in 2009. "Our revenues are higher this time around and our expenses are lower," Pierce said.

The party set aside two hours Saturday afternoon to debate some of the 80 submitted policy resolutions on everything from decreasing poverty to reducing ferry fares. There is also an hour for Premier Clark's keynote address.  [Tyee]

Read more: BC Politics

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