The leader of the B.C. Conservatives says his party is re-vetting its candidates in the provincial election after two were dismissed due to controversial comments that came to light this week.
“I can assure you that’s the case,” John Cummins told reporters following the first election debate among leaders of four key provincial parties – a radio event held at CKNW.
This week, the Conservatives dismissed Mischa Popoff, the party’s candidate for Boundary-Similkameen, over newspaper column comments about single mothers.
Earlier this week, the Conservatives “fired” Ian Tootill as the party’s candidate for Vancouver-False Creek due to social media comments. Jeff Sprague also stepped down as candidate for North Vancouver-Lonsdale over allegations of impaired driving.
Mr. Cummins said volunteers at his party had done their best to review the records of the party’s candidates for the May 14 vote.
“We’ve gone back as far as we can on the Google,” said the former Tory MP.
“We’ve had a huge number of candidates we have had to check. You go back a hundred pages or whatever the case may be and if somebody goes back 500 pages, they may find something. We did the best that we can.”
But Mr. Cummins said he could not say, for sure, that other candidates won’t run into trouble.
Nor could he say exactly how many candidates his party is running. There are 85 seats in the B.C legislature.
Mr. Cummins noted that his party acted “decisively” when the controversial remarks came to light.
He said some candidates were rejected due to pre-election vetting, but did not have the specific number.
In a statement, the party said Mr. Popoff’s comments were wrong.
“Mr. Popoff’s various comments were insensitive and disrespectful, particularly to women and single mothers who are, in fact, heroes to their children and their communities in many cases,” said the statement.
“Mr. Popoff’s statements were unacceptable.”
According to a report in The Vancouver Sun, Mr. Popoff had written in newspaper columns of the Missing Women of Inquiry as a waste of time and criticized single mothers for having children without the support of male partners.
In an interview, Mr. Popoff said he planned to run as an independent. “I’m running no matter what,” he said. He also noted that he asked the party if they wanted copies of his newspaper columns, but they declined.
When Mr. Popoff was nominated as the Boundary-Similkameen candidate last month, a party statement described him as a “gifted public speaker” and policy advisor to the Heartland institute, described on its web site as a Chicago-based non-profit organization that develops free-market solutions to social and economic problems. Mr. Popoff is also the author of Is it Organic?, a book about the organic food industry.
During an appearance on the Voice of B.C. show on Shaw TV last May, Mr. Cummins promised a concerted effort to vet his party’s candidates ahead of the election.
“We want to know everything,” he told host Vaughn Palmer. “We’re talking about attitudes. We’re talking about any social media that the individuals may have participated in. We want to know about these things. We’re doing criminal record checks, credit checks, the whole bit. And they’ll be interviewed as well.”
Mr. Cummins, who noted his party had a candidate questionnaire about 40 pages long, said he agreed with the suggestion that his party, which had no MLAs at dissolution, had to take special measures to avoid the embarrassments of controversial candidates who knocked Alberta’s Wildrose party off track.