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Marc Dalton calls for BC Liberal name change

In the wake of two byelection wins for the BC NDP in ridings east of Mission, one BC Liberal incumbent is calling on his party to change its name.

Maple Ridge-Mission MLA Marc Dalton says the party name is confusing people from understanding the BC Liberals are a coalition party of centre-right voters, especially now that the BC Conservatives have surged to solid third party contenders.

"There is still a lot of confusion with name brand. People who are federal Conservatives, such as myself, they just have a hard time voting (BC) Liberal," he said, adding his party needs to get out the message that a vote for the BC Conservatives is not a vote for the federal Conservative party.

But BC NDP candidate Mike Bocking, who lost in the 2009 election to Dalton by just 70 votes, says a name change won't alter anything.

"Whether it's the BC Liberals or some new name party, or the Christy party, or whatever it is they come up with, the people are not going to be fooled by it. They're going to look at it and say, 'no, that's the same old bunch.'"

Dalton recently campaigned for his party in Chilliwack, making phone calls and going door-to-door, saying he met several people who wanted to send government a message by voting for the NDP or the Conservatives.

In the Chilliwack-Hope byelection, BC NDP candidate Gwen O'Mahony, who lost the 2009 election with 5,638 votes, won this time around with a similar number. The Liberals, however, shed 4,586 votes from their 2009 showing, while the Conservatives improved by 2,350.

The number of combined votes for the Liberals and Conservatives outnumbered the NDP winner by 2,175 votes, which Premier Christy Clark has said is an example of the danger of vote-splitting on the political right.

Dalton wouldn't, however, entertain the idea that a minority government may emerge in 2013, requiring cooperation between the election winners and the two losing parties to pass legislation, similar to the federal government between 2004 and 2011.

"What would end up happening would be a wipeout for centre and right parties," he said, arguing the only scenarios would be either a unified right-wing party under the BC Liberals or else an NDP majority government.

Bocking disagreed, saying the Liberals are trying to polarize politics and spread fear.

"Basically, that's the elites on the right, the big business folks, wanting to remove choice from voters," he said.

Recent polls have suggested the BC NDP hold the sway of power with a 23-point lead over the Liberals and Conservatives who are statistically tied. The next provincial election will be May, 2013.

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