File photo for editorials by Scott Tibballs (Scott Tibballs/The Free Press)

Comment: Pondering party names

There appears to be confusion over the name of the BC Liberals, so maybe it’s time to clear that up

Over the few weeks of the provincial election the naming of the centre-right political party in BC came up a few times – from the Kootenay East MLA himself, from his challengers, and in comments online and in person. Apparently, there’s debate and confusion over the name of the party – BC Liberals.

Concerns appeared – to this observer at least – to be around whether the brand was on-point given their more conservative leanings, and confusion/questions on whether the BC Liberals were associated with the Liberal Party of Canada.

The answer to that second point is pretty simple: No. The BC Liberals stopped being affiliated with the Liberal Party of Canada almost 50 years ago now. Since then they’ve diverged quite a ways.

Discussion was much less about the dictionary meaning of the word “liberal” and more about association with the Prime Minister of Canada’s brand as leader of the Liberal Party.

That there was any confusion over the name, I admit, confuses me. I don’t even get to vote here and I know that the BC Liberals are the generic centre-right option on British Columbian ballot papers. Though, I’m also from a country where the “Liberal Party” is the conservative option on ballot papers on state and federal levels, so I was ready for that curveball anyway.

But the fact there was confusion at all? Yeah, that’s a problem for the BC Liberals.

Maybe a brand change is in the cards? It must be floating around somewhere in BC Liberal HQ. I know our newly re-elected MLA Tom Shypitka has talked about this on social media before, has batted away implied connections to the federal Liberal Party in debates and has spoken to me in brief about the name of the party being a hurdle he often has to clear.

So why not change the name?

In some parts of the world political party names are far more exciting than the vague names Western political parties adopt. Labour, Liberal, Conservative, Democratic, Libertarian, Republican, National – all pretty ho-hum, no?

In Indonesia, political parties run with names like ‘Golkar’ (Party of Functional Groups), The ‘Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle’ and ‘Gerindra’ (Great Indonesia Movement Party). Take a look at their logos too – angry bulls, angry birds! – much more interesting than leaves and mountains and sunrises.

Then you’ve got ‘Servant of the People’ party in Ukraine, the ‘Taiwan Statebuilding Party’ of Taiwan, the ‘Economic Freedom Fighters’ of South Africa (where they also have the ‘Good’ party).

Descriptive party names can work too, like the ‘Shooters, Fishers and Farmers’ of Australia and the ‘Rent Is Too Damn High’ party of the U.S.

Or maybe some joke party names, like ‘Party! Party! Party!’ in Australia, the ‘Anarchistic Pogo Party of Germany’, the ‘Donald Duck Party’ of Sweden – and of course, the Rhinoceros Party of Canada. Most of these groups hang around as long as a joke has to before it gets old, and are long gone.

It’s fun to think what the parties of Canada could re-name themselves to fit more with descriptive or amusing titles, like ‘The Bourgeois Struggle’, or ‘The Bleeding Hearts Party’, or maybe ‘Renting is Wacky.’ Their opponents would certainly have a laugh.

Notwithstanding the provincial results from October, the BC Liberals are, of course, not a joke. But it could be their name has gotten a little old, and a hold-over from times gone past. Normally this wouldn’t be an issue, but given how many people out there can get the BC Liberals mixed up with the (very unrelated) Liberal Party of Canada, a re-brand could be needed. That anyone can get confused at all is a problem.

Whatever happens, hopefully no bright spark decides to go the way of the centre-right parties of Yukon or Saskatchewan and propose re-naming the BC Liberals to the ‘BC Party’, which is even more vague than a debatable misnomer, not to mention unimaginative.

While we’re here, when does the New Democratic Party stop being ‘new’?
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