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'It is vital to deliver our riding for free enterprise. I’m in it to win it,' Laurie Throness, seen here in Port Moody on March 22, 2012, said in a statement Friday.

John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail

Laurie Throness, who stood down as a BC Liberal candidate for the Oct. 24 provincial election over controversial comments on an NDP free-contraception policy, says he is now intent on being re-elected as an Independent candidate in his Fraser Valley riding.

“It is vital to deliver our riding for free enterprise. I’m in it to win it,” Mr. Throness said in a statement Friday, even as the Chilliwack-Kent incumbent apologized for comparing the NDP proposal to eugenics. He also said Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson, who announced Mr. Throness’s exit from party ranks on Thursday, is a “good man” who should be premier.

However, Mr. Wilkinson was facing new questions, particularly after the party’s membership chair denounced his handling of issues around Mr. Throness, who has been controversial for views on homosexuality.

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“The BCLP doesn’t have a Laurie Throness problem. We have a problem in the leadership of the party and their lack of willingness to stand up for diversity, inclusion and the values of BC Liberal members,” Nicole Paul said in a series of Tweets.

She described a five-month fight over Mr. Throness’s views, which she said do not belong in the party. Mr. Throness has previously been under fire for advertising in a Christian magazine that includes content considered to be anti-LGBTQ, despite Mr. Wilkinson’s concerns, as well as supporting conversion therapy.

“The BC Liberal Party under Andrew Wilkinson does not reflect values I support,” said Ms. Paul, though she later said her views were “not me pulling the knives out on the BCLP leader or quitting the party.”

On Friday, Mr. Wilkinson noted that Ms. Paul had withdrawn some comments, and the party supported equality and fairness for everyone.

He told a news conference that he is not feeling pressure from within the party even though several MLA candidates denounced Mr. Throness for this week’s comments. “It’s exactly the opposite,” he said.

“Since the events of yesterday afternoon, I have had overwhelming support from all across the province. Dozens of messages, e-mails, phone calls saying, ‘Andrew you did the right thing. … Keep moving. We believe in this party.' “

Of Mr. Throness, Mr. Wilkinson said, “He is on his own now,” and it will be up to the voters to decide if they want to support him. Despite a 2012 by-election win for the NDP, the riding has tended toward conservative candidates. Mr. Throness won the seat in 2013, and was re-elected with a 20.7-per-cent margin in 2017.

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Mr. Throness suggested during an all-candidates meeting this week that the NDP’s election promise of free contraception was akin to eugenics and encouraging poor people not to have children.

Mr. Wilkinson condemned the comments and said he actually supports the NDP policy, the second time this week that he’s had to express regrets for something said by his candidates.

BC Green Party Leader Sonia Furstenau, asked about the situation, said elected leaders should work toward a more equitable world, and Mr. Throness’s “disappointing” comments promoting stereotypes and misinformation were not in line with that aspiration. “He needs to reflect on his own comments, and why people are so upset,” she said.

Earlier this week, Mr. Wilkinson was forced to address remarks from another of his party’s candidates over a story, widely seen as sexual and belittling, delivered at a retirement roast last month. Jane Thornthwaite, who spoke at a roast for retiring MLA Ralph Sultan, described Bowinn Ma, a New Democrat MLA in another North Shore riding, as a “pretty lady” who flirted with Mr. Sultan at an event.

The virtual roast was held on Sept. 17, but the video was released last weekend. Ms. Thornthwaite has since apologized.

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