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Les Leyne: Hansen says Liberals need a new name

PENTICTON Premier Christy Clark wouldn't debate her byelection opponent, but she is spoiling for a good fight with her own party supporters.


Premier Christy Clark wouldn't debate her byelection opponent, but she is spoiling for a good fight with her own party supporters.

Clark ducked any showdowns with NDP candidate David Eby en route to winning the Vancouver-Point Grey seat on Wednesday. But on Friday, she seemed to be hankering for policy arguments in her own camp to make up for it.

"I don't mind if party members disagree," she told reporters at the Liberal convention. "I don't mind if they challenge what the government's been doing ... I don't mind if cabinet ministers get up and argue with each other about the things we're going to do."

Just to get things rolling, former finance minister Colin Hansen jumped up at the outset and urged people to think about changing the party's name.

The notion blindsided the few hundred delegates present when he made the pitch. But there was lots of buzz through the day about the possibilities. (Space prevents listing all the possible jokes. Somebody start a website, quick!)

If someone really wanted to fulfill the premier's need for a good argument, there are a few things around the edges of the Liberal (For Now) party convention that might help start a good old brawl.

If she really wants to see cabinet ministers arguing with each other, she should start a panel discussion on Social Development Minister Harry Bloy's performance in question period. They've been holding his hand for a week now, and he still can't stand on his own.

They could also hold a breakout session on why Bloy wasn't given a starter ministry, rather than one that actually involves helping people.

But that's idle fantasy. Sprinkled through the resolutions up for debate were a few other argument-starters.

A leftover from the Social Credit days surfaced in one policy room, where a handful of delegates passed a motion recommending unions be required to hold secret ballots before they can spend union dues on nonunion activities (like donating to the NDP, for instance).

The Liberal government has been ignoring this proposal for years, and Clark will continue to do so. The only surprising thing is that the relic came from the B.C. Young Liberals. It must be in Socred DNA, which gets passed down through generations.

Earlier, another flame-thrower of an idea was snuffed. It called for a website with names and pictures of "deadbeat parents" behind on their child support.

Elsewhere, someone was gauche enough to take a run at the B.C. Teachers' Federation, advocating that more "independent-minded non-teachers" be named to the B.C. College of Teachers to outvote the BCTF members. It has controlled the college for decades and "consistently blocked" attempts to discipline unprofessional teachers.

That's the issue that Clark's tenure as education minister foundered on, and probably not the kind of argument she had in mind. Particularly as government has just started a sensitive round of contract talks, after losing a major court case that followed the last attempt to push the teachers around.

The big argument that everyone else has been having -and growing sick of -is about the harmonized sales tax.

Delegates more or less followed Clark's lead, and took a pass on it.

An HST resolution drew the attention of a few dozen people in one policy forum. It started out saying that the Liberal party should "assertively market the benefits of the HST" prior to the referendum next month. But after a few people monkeyed around with it, the resolution was watered down to a tame call for the party to provide neutral, factual information.

Whatever the party does, behind the scenes there is some renewed enthusiasm for the HST's chances next month.

What was shaping up to be a taxpolicy train wreck might still be avoided. There were some private meetings on how it will be modified in the near future and the impression was left that the government could still save the tax.

Also in the "just for argument's sake" category were a couple of signs that Vancouver Islanders are getting restless. There was a call for an Island transportation strategy and another to include the Island in the Asia Pacific Gateway strategy.

As Clark said: "Not all the smart people are in government. Lots of the smart people are here as delegates."

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