POLITICS
05/22/2011 03:43 EDT | Updated 07/22/2011 05:12 EDT

Stockwell Day Backs BC Liberals

Former Treasury Board president and retired Conservative MP Stockwell Day says he's backing the provincial Liberals in British Columbia because any other choice would result in an NDP-led government.

In an interview airing Saturday on CBC Radio's The House, Day said he will campaign for Premier Christy Clark's party, but also believes the party's name should be changed to reflect the reality of its support base.

"I know for people living outside of B.C., it sounds strange," Day said.

"'BC Liberals' really is, if I dare I use the word, a coalition of the non-socialist vote that took place a number of years ago … That particular coalition by-and-large worked."

Day called Clark a "smart and engaging person" who has invited discussions about a party name change among her membership.

B.C. isn't scheduled to have an election until 2013. But there is speculation that Clark, who took over the Liberal realm and the premiership following Gordon Campbell's resignation, will seek an earlier vote.

Day said his decision not back his former colleague, B.C. Conservative Leader John Cummins, wasn't personal.

"John is a friend of mine," Day said. "I've said, 'John, I think this runs the risk of splitting votes, the non-socialist vote. I thinks this runs the risk of an NDP government."

Day also said he looked forward to watching the debate on the federal stage with a Conservative majority government and the NDP as the Official Opposition.

"I think the fact that we've got NDP for opposition is going to be good for the public in general, from the point of view that the policy positions will be more clear," he said.

The now retired Conservative MP also offered some advice for Tony Clement -- who inherited his old job handling the Treasury portfolio.

During his tenure, Day suggested most of the expected savings hailed by the federal government would come through attrition, or cutting public service jobs when people leave or retire.

But Clement has recently suggested the government is considering permanent program cuts to achieve the savings.

"I'm saying, 'Congratulations, and you have my sympathies,'" he said of Clement, who is under pressure by reporters to reveal more details about what could face the axe.

Clement said he would consider shutting entire programs and shrinking the public service to help produce a balanced budget by 2014-2015.

Day said taxpayers agree with Clement's argument that some programs that might have been important 30 years ago may no longer be the best way to spend public money today.

"We're really doing it the right way by looking at incremental shifts now rather than major pain later," Day said.

When asked about a battle brewing inside Tory ranks ahead of next month's Conservative Party convention, Day said he would stay out of the debate over a policy in the party's consitution that allows all riding associations to be treated equally no matter how many members the associations have.

Defence Minister Peter MacKay has fought aggressively at previous conventions against such amendments to the party's constitution and is calling on riding presidents to keep the proposals from even making it to the convention floor.

But several riding associations, including those of Immigration Minister Jason Kenney and Ontario MP Scott Reid -- both former Canadian Alliance MPs -- want to alter the rules to move the party toward a system closer to that of "one member, one vote."

Day confirmed he is an advocate of altering the constitution to a "one member, one vote" policy, but it is for delegates, not him, to decide.

"I think the members themselves and delegates from across the country will be the ones that need to get into the debate, they're the ones that are going to be affected," he said.

"You're going to see some pretty strong debate on variety of sides of that issue ... Bring it on. Make it open. Make it robust. And then let's live with the vote, whatever people decide."

Asked about his feelings over leaving Ottawa as the Conservatives begin their majority, Day said he won't miss when politics get personal.

"I always enjoy good debate," he said. "[But] there are people, and I guess it happens in all parties, who can't get beyond the debate, either philosophical or party positions. And it gets intensely personal and they can't bring themselves to actually respect or even like the other person just because of the label.

"That part of it, the deep seated animosity that sometime sets in, I certainly won't miss that."

CBC