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What's in a Name?

A political makeover for shoot-from-the-hip Christy and her BC Libs.

Bill Tieleman 17 May 2011TheTyee.ca

Bill Tieleman is a regular Tyee contributor who writes a column on B.C. politics every Tuesday in 24 Hours newspaper. E-mail him at weststar@telus.net or visit his blog.

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Clark's Liberals doing an about face? Photo: Justin Langille.

"The type who would charge hell with a bucket of water." -- Lady Bird Johnson, on those who act without thinking.

Do you think any political party in the world would trumpet the following approach as a winning strategy?

The party leader narrowly wins a seat in a by-election to enter the legislature, defeating a candidate she repeatedly refused to debate and who wasn't supposed to have a chance.

Within 24 hours of that slim victory, which was a fraction of the margin the ex-leader racked up in several elections in the same riding, the new leader announces she may run somewhere else next time.

In the same 24 hours, a veteran legislator, the leader's campaign chair and until recently the finance minister, makes a surprise announcement that their party should seriously consider changing its name.

After all, why remind voters you handily won three successive elections to hold power for a decade, and have existed as a political party with the same name since 1903, first forming government in 1916?

The leader chimes in to say there are "real merits" to changing the name, but other senior cabinet members disagree -- in public.

Then the leader announces she will make "bold" and "smart" changes to "fix" a despised tax that's been in place for nearly a year -- but won't tell anyone what they are for weeks -- until just before a binding referendum vote.

But she is spending more than $5 million on a government advertising campaign already, despite no one knowing what changes are coming.

Oh yes, and the TV ad campaign features a cartoon stick man to inform consumers about a $2-billion-a-year tax.

Is this any way to run a party? Or a province?

Change in the air

By now you've guessed that this is British Columbia under new Premier Christy Clark, with former minister Colin Hansen in charge of party name changes.

And it's clear Clark is busy trying to change the provincial symbol from the dogwood tree to one more representative of her own style -- a loose cannon!

As someone who endorsed New Democrat candidate David Eby in the Vancouver-Point Grey by-election, where Clark eked out a win of 595 votes despite former premier Gordon Campbell winning by 10 per cent and over 2,300 votes, I should be thrilled at her political miscalculations and insult to the riding.

And as a founder of Fight HST, the group that ran the successful citizens' initiative petition leading to the binding referendum on the Harmonized Sales Tax, I should applaud the outrageous ad spending and uncertainty as help in getting a "Yes" vote to extinguish the HST.

But as a political commentator and communications consultant, I'm appalled at how amateurish British Columbia looks right now.

I suspect it's a position shared by some BC Liberal MLAs, all but one of whom declined to endorse Clark in the leadership campaign for increasingly obvious reasons.

Lend a name

So let's at least help the BC Liberal Party pick a new name that accurately reflects its current status.

You can email suggestions, post them on my blog, or post them in the comment thread below.

To get you started, here's a few ideas:

"The Party Formerly Known as BC Liberal";

The "Gordon Campbell? Never Heard Of Him" Party;

The "Because Christy Clark's Really Awesome & Zany, Yeah" Party -- B.C. C.R.A.Z.Y.

The names may change, but B.C. politics will remain wild!  [Tyee]

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