VICTORIA — British Columbia Liberal Party members have voted to change the party's name to BC United.
Leader Kevin Falcon said 80 per cent of the voters who cast a ballot were in favour of the name change, and he was thrilled with the result.
"It's about individuals who are united by common principles and values, that we believe a private sector-driven economy is the best way to generate revenues for government so that we can fund first-class public health, education and post-secondary services," he said.
" … I want this party to be a big-tent party. I want to make sure that, as I've said so many times, regardless of who people choose to love, or what God they choose to pray to, that they're going to feel welcome in a BC United."
Approximately 8,100, or 18 per cent, of the party's 45,000 members cast a ballot in the vote, which included both phone and online voting options.
Falcon called that level of voter turnout a success, suggesting that newer members who joined as part of this year's leadership race might not have the same level of interest in a new name as longtime members.
There has been a version of a Liberal party in the province since 1903, first as the Liberal Party of B.C. and later the B.C. Liberal Party.
David Black, a Royal Roads University political communications expert, said while it is losing a name with a history, the Liberal label has been an "awkward" one for the party that is a centre-right coalition.
"(It) led to confusion internally because not everybody thought of themselves as liberal, small L or capital L, and of course externally for a public that, probably even to this day, still thinks of the B.C. Liberals as a party affiliated with the federal Liberals where of course they've not been since 1987," he said.
Falcon dismissed concerns a name change could be expensive or confusing.
"It's not like we're Coca-Cola."
The name change next needs to be approved by members at convention, which is expected to happen early next year. Falcon will then have to decide when to officially make the switch.
Black suggested the party should change the name soon to give it enough time before the next election to develop public familiarity. He said the party could potentially build excitement by announcing new policy ideas as part of the launch.
"You want to launch it well because parties are not just like any other corporation or any other kind of product brand," he said.
"They are things that people need to feel passionate about, to donate their time and their money and their vote when it comes to that, and they become part of B.C. history."
Falcon said he had to be careful about when the name will be changed because he had no control over the electoral timeline.
He said in doesn't trust incoming NDP premier David Eby not to call an early election.
"I'm not going to be stupid and change the name in February and be facing a May or June election. That wouldn't make any sense," he said.
John Horgan's New Democrat government won a majority after calling a snap election in October 2020.
B.C. has a fixed election date for October 2024.
Niki Sharma, an NDP member of the legislature, said B.C. voters remember what it was like to have a B.C. Liberal government in power even if the party changes its name.
“Kevin Falcon can change the name of his party, but he can’t change his record,” she said.
Falcon’s 12-year record in government is defined by huge tax giveaways to the richest one per cent, while raising costs for people and making aggressive cuts to services, said a statement from the NDP caucus.
While in government, Falcon hiked medical service plan premiums, BC Hydro rates and brought in bridge tolls, the statement said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 16, 2022.
The Canadian Press