By David F. Rooney
BC Liberals from across the riding met in Revelstoke on Saturday to begin planning for an election they think could be called this summer.
Premier Christy Clark has until August to either seek election to the Legislature through a by-election or a general election. Doug Clovechok of Radium, president of the riding’s BC Liberal Party association, said some of the party’s MLAs have already begun preparing for a general election, even though one has not yet been called.
Liberals in this constituency must begin organizing now if they want to be in a position where they can seriously challenge two-time election victor New Democratic MLA Norm Macdonald.
“We’re all starting to realize that another four years of NDP representation is not going to do us any good,” said Mark McKee, who lost to Macdonald in the 2009 general election.
The party will need about $100,000 to credibly challenge Macdonald, but more than that it needs to face the fact that waging election campaigns has changed since 2009. It needs to find new ways to reach potential supporters via the Internet, using so-called social media instruments such as Facebook, Twitter and other outlets. Riding association diretors also wants to loosen the tight control that BC Liberal headquarters have exerted in previous elections.
They also need to heal some of the internal divisions that have plagued the party’s riding association in recent years.
Although the bulk of the party’s support is in Revelstoke — a full 58 per cent of its 466 paid up members — senior party members here have for years felt out of touch with members in the Radium-to-Kimberley belt south of Golden. This dates back to the days when BC Liberal Wendy McMahon was the MLA.
Riding Association President Doug Clovechok recognized the existence of what he called a “disconnect” that has worked against the party and, by extension, benefitted the NDP.
“There seems to be a massive disconnect between Revelstokians and (people in Kimberley),” he said, adding that the same disconnect separates party members in all of the riding’s different communities.
This is due, in part, to the size of the riding as well as the party’s inability in 2009 to identify common goals and issues. For example, no one in Revelstoke really cares about the Jumbo Glacier Resort, which is a hot issue in the Columbia Valley. And until this year when avalanches closed Highway 93 between Windermere and Banff as well as the Trans Canada East and West of Golden for extended periods of time no one on the other side of the Selkirk range regarded avalanche control and highway maintenance in quite the same way that Revelstokians have.
That’s changing and, for the first time, the party’s executive is working to identify issues that will resonate with voters across the riding, one of the largest (if not the largest) in the country.
“It’s time to take back the riding,” Clovechok said. “It’s going to take a lot of work but it can be done. I like to ask people: ‘Norm is an affable guy but how’s that working out for you?'”
Will these tactics bear fruit? That will likely take another election to determine. In the meantime, the party is planning a major event that will likely take place in the early summer. Details will be published in The Current as they become available.
For more information about the BC Liberals please go to the party’s website.