10/25/2012 02:07 EDT | Updated 12/25/2012 05:12 EST

B.C. Liberals' Whistler Convention Gathers As Party Slides

VICTORIA - British Columbia's Liberals are gathering in Whistler knowing their three-term dynasty has seen better days, but there's a quiet confidence rising from the party ranks as next May's provincial election approaches.

Kootenay East MLA Bill Bennett, the co-chairman of the Liberals campaign platform committee, said Thursday there's a growing sense that British Columbians are starting to tune into Premier Christy Clark's jobs and families message.

He acknowledged that the Opposition New Democrats are ahead in the public opinion polls, but said voters are recognizing that B.C. is actually doing well while other jurisdictions are experiencing steep economic declines.

"We've had a pretty good two months here," said Bennett. "The B.C. Conservatives are imploding, lot's of people predicted that, so that's helpful. People are starting to notice that in the context of what's going on in the rest of the world, B.C.'s actually doing quite well."

Bennett said the Whistler convention gives the Liberals opportunities to engage with grassroots party members, who will number more than 1,000 at the three-day gathering.

"Let's find out what these 1,000 B.C. Liberal members are thinking and talking about among their friends, families and business associates," he said. "It will help people like me."

But University of Victoria political scientist James Lawson said the Liberals' traditional supporters in the business community may be put off by her government's attempts to stage manage the Northern Gateway pipeline debate.

"They are scandalized," said Lawson, suggesting business thrives on stability and consistency and Clark's battles with Alberta don't help.

"The emphasis gets changed from week to week about whether the pipeline's going through," he said. "In the process, a lot of relationships are damaged."

Opposition New Democrat Leader Adrian Dix said he's trying to bring a conservative approach to business leaders, but that includes not supporting the pipeline and raising corporate taxes.

Clark will address convention delegates on Saturday afternoon.

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