Premier Christy Clark wants to overhaul B.C. Liberals

Premier Christy Clark says she wants to modernize and overhaul the B.C. Liberal Party at its annual convention this weekend in Kelowna, but that doesn’t necessarily mean changing the party’s name.

More than 1,200 Liberal members are expected at the convention, which marks the first mass gathering of party faithful since the Liberal’s come-from-behind election victory last May.

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There’s going to be a lot of celebrating, Clark said, but also a challenge for delegates she hopes they will rise to accomplish.

“We have this huge potential to grow a different kind of political party, one like we haven’t had for the last 12 to 15 years in the B.C. Liberals,” Clark said Thursday in an interview with the Vancouver Sun.

“To grow a party that is really centred around common values, that is very grassroots driven, where people are engaged between elections, which isn’t something our party has accomplished in the past.

“That’s part of what I want to do at this convention.”

Clark had publicly expressed her desire to change the party name before last May’s election in an attempt to distance it from the federal Liberal party and to better describe the free-enterprise coalition of centre-right supporters that make up the B.C. Liberals. She had said, win or lose, the party should seek a new identity.

But that was before she stunned pundits by leading the Liberals over the B.C. NDP and into a fourth majority government.

Now, two of her top lieutenants, adviser Brad Bennett and Energy Minister Bill Bennett, are pushing a passionate defence of the party brand at a discussion scheduled for Saturday morning.

“Their view is that people have voted for this name for four consecutive majority governments, so why change it?” Clark said.

“Who would change their brand when it’s succeeded in dominating the market?”

Officially, the premier said she’ll leave the decision to party members.

But it’s not likely to gain much traction amid the celebrating and “free-enterprise in action” tours of local Okanagan wineries that will dominate the convention weekend.

“I think we have united our party around values in a way that we’ve never been united before,” Clark said. “So I think because we are a values-based party now, there’s a lot less confusion about what we stand for and therefore a lot less angst about what the name means.”

Liberal members at the convention are also expected to be briefed on the party’s newly redesigned website, as well as hear a presentation on fundraising through small-dollar donation campaigns. There are roughly 80,000 Liberal members in the province, the party estimates.

Liberal organizers say more members are registered to attend this year’s convention than any since 2004, and that as many as 40 per cent of the delegates are first-time convention-goers.

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