B.C. Conservative Leader John Cummins claims his party is past any legal costs associated with a fight with dissidents against his leadership.
Mr. Cummins made the point Wednesday night as he spoke to reporters following a fundraising dinner to about 100 supporters, who paid $295 per plate to attend.
Legal costs never exceeded $1,500 for the party, said Mr.Cummins.
“That is far behind us. It has been dealt with. It is no longer an issue,” he said . “We haven’t had any legal costs on that since November. I think it has been put to bed.”
“It’s not been a huge expense. There just was some parrying and, as far as I am concerned, that’s the end of it.”
Late last year, the party was seeking donations from the membership to deal with costs related to legal action by critics of Mr. Cummins, who were bounced from the party. Earlier in the year, the former Conservative MP scored 70.1 per cent in a leadership vote.
On Wednesday night, Mr. Cummins said his party faces challenges raising the money it will need in the campaign leading to the May. 14 provincial election. At this point the party has no members in the B.C. legislature. Former Liberal cabinet minister John van Dongen defected to the party, then quit in a dispute over Mr. Cummins’ leadership style.
On Wednesday night, Mr. Cummins declined to disclose the specifics of the party’s financial situation, suggesting he was unaware of amounts and probably wouldn’t disclose them if they were at hand.
In October, the party’s treasurer issued a statement declaring the party raised over $200,000 from Jan. 1 until the end of September, and was aiming to generate $350,000 by the end of the calendar year.
Now, Mr. Cummins said the goal is to accumulate enough funds to put up a credible election fight. “Our war chest is building slowly but steadily,” he said.
Still, he said it won’t match either the Liberals or NDP, so the party will be behind in advertising.
“It’s going to take a lot of generous people to step up to the table. We’re looking at a hundred-dollar donations from thousands of people,” he said.
On another issue, Mr. Cummins seemed lukewarm about recruiting John Slater, the former B.C. Liberal MLA for Boundary-Similkameen into his ranks. Mr. Slater this week declared he would run as an independent after the party refused to support his nomination, citing “personal issues.”
Mr. Slater was first elected in 2009. He won by 813 votes over the NDP – 38 per cent to 33 per cent of the vote. The B.C. Conservatives had 20 per cent of the vote.
“I have no thoughts at this moment of conversing with him,” said Mr. Cummins, who earlier cited the case in his speech as a means of criticizing Liberal political conduct.
Pressed on the issue, he conceded there may be an opportunity for his party, which has no seats in the legislature. “It may happen. Who knows?”
At this point, the B.C. Conservatives have nominated 10 candidates. Mr. Cummins is planning to run in Langley against provincial Transportation Minister Mary Polak. He said candidates have been vetted in 40 ridings.