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How Christy Clark Destroyed the BC Liberal Brand in Just One Day

It was quite something to see.

By Bill Tieleman 27 Jun 2017 |

Bill Tieleman is a former NDP strategist whose clients include unions and businesses in the resource and public sector. Tieleman is a regular Tyee contributor who writes a column on B.C. politics every Tuesday in 24 Hours newspaper. Email him at, find him on Twitter, or visit his blog.

Your brand is the single most important investment you can make in your business.” — Publisher Steve Forbes

In just one day, outgoing Premier Christy Clark has single-handedly destroyed the BC Liberal Party brand that took 16 years in office to build.

All across the province you could hear the heads of small-c conservative supporters who are a big part of the BC Liberal Party coalition exploding as they read Clark’s throne speech Thursday.

That’s because it isn’t a BC Liberal document — it was stolen wholesale from the BC New Democrats and BC Green Party election platforms.

There are at least 30 items promised in Clark’s throne speech that were never mentioned in the BC Liberal election platform just seven weeks ago, but could be found in the other two parties’ documents.

And there are other items — like the SkyTrain to Squamish feasibility study and building 50,000 rent-to-own housing units that are completely new departures from the BC Liberals’ conservative fiscal platform. But not for a desperate Christy Clark.

You could likely find the BC Liberal platform at a pawnshop, with a corresponding value.

So it’s no wonder that conservatives like ex-BC Liberal finance minister Kevin Falcon were too shocked to even respond to the throne speech.

“I’m still trying to deal with the magnitude of the shifts,” Falcon said Friday.

Others were deeply concerned last week that the party’s fragile coalition will split completely as it bizarrely takes positions left of the NDP and Greens.

Retired energy minister Bill Bennett admitted, “I think there’s likely to be some real angst today on the part of business and fiscal conservatives.”

And former mines minister Blair Lekstrom said he was surprised and questioned if the throne speech promises were affordable.

“I’m not sure that’s the case,” said Lekstrom, adding he expected public cynicism.

Cynicism is an understatement.

How can voters understand BC Liberal principles when the throne speech announced a much needed, $100 monthly increase in social assistance rates that have been shamefully frozen for a decade — but just four months ago Deputy Premier Rich Coleman vigorously rejected any such hike?

“We have to remember that a person on social assistance — a single person on social assistance in British Columbia — gets double the annual income of a person in the Third World. And we should remember that — not because we say it’s right but we should remember actually how good this country is,” Coleman said in February in an embarrassing right-wing tirade.

“You don’t like this country? I don’t know what your problem is.”

And now we’re supposed to believe that same guy had an epiphany in favour of a welfare hike right after losing the election?

  Corporate branding strategies bear out BC Liberal conservatives’ worries about the party’s amazing fire sale on its principles.

Starbucks coffee CEO Howard Schultz has argued that being genuine is key to success.

“Mass advertising can help build brands, but authenticity is what makes them last. If people believe they share values with a company, they will stay loyal to the brand,” Schultz writes in his book Pour Your Heart Into It.

I don’t think he meant authentically unbelievable.

And marketing expert Stephanie Taylor Christensen has warned against being a “copycat”:

“There’s a fine line between inspiration and imitation. If a brand has already been ‘done’ by someone else, you’ll gain nothing from sticking too closely to their approach in your own identity development,” Christensen writes in a piece obviously not read by anyone from the BC Liberals.

In fact, it’s highly doubtful they read anything about branding, let alone principles or standing up for your beliefs.

And so much for all the worries in the media about the speaker having to break tie votes regularly — with this throne speech, the BC Liberals have declared they will support practically every NDP and Green legislation imaginable.

Ironically however, some New Democrats and media are wondering if the BC Liberal throne speech is the most brilliant strategy ever concocted; I totally disagree unless you think a completely bat guano crazy plan is a good idea.

And remember, this is the BC Liberal “brain trust” that just squandered the provincial election despite being in power, an overwhelming financial advantage, $3 million in third-party advertising attack ads on BC NDP leader John Horgan, and a $15-million government advertising campaign that should never have happened because it was partisan towards the BC Liberals.

Also don’t forget that the party’s campaign director, Laura Miller, has been dispatched back to Ontario where she soon faces a criminal breach of trust charge in connection with police allegations related to the deletion of Ontario government records.

No, this is simply Clark’s last desperate stand, shamelessly renouncing the fiscal conservative beliefs that kept her party in office.

Instead, Clark will self-centeredly demolish the legacy of ex-premier Gordon Campbell and the entire BC Liberal government of the past 16 years, leaving the party looking desperate, unprincipled and adrift. Bon voyage.  [Tyee]

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