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B.C. Conservatives leadership ‘out-of-touch,’ riding association says

British Columbia Conservative Party Leader John Cummins.

Darryl Dyck/The Globe and Mail

B.C. Conservatives, who recently had a prominent candidate defect to the B.C. Liberals and their sole MLA quit the party , are now facing the departure of one of their constituency associations over leadership concerns.

The decision by the board of directors of the Vancouver-Kingsway constituency association is yet more trouble for the party, which had been making gains among centre-right voters at the expense of the governing Liberals.

Milan Kljajic, president of the riding association and a former party director defeated in a bid for re-election to the post, said in a statement released Tuesday the association would deregister as soon as possible from registration with Elections B.C. – a move that would force the party to sign up again if it wants to run candidates in the May, 2013 election.

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"The departures of many high-profile supporters in recent days demonstrates that the leadership is out-of-touch," said the statement.

"The party failed to make necessary changes to its leadership at the recent (annual general meeting) to make itself relevant, capable, and deserving of British Columbians' support."

In an interview, association vice president Al Marcoux said there has been no official response from the party leadership to the move of the association, which has about 20 members.

"I wish things had turned out differently," he said Tuesday night.

B.C. Conservative spokesman Mattison Brooks, in an e-mailed response, declined comment on the "situation" in Kingsway.

Over the weekend, 71 per cent of party members voted against a review of the leadership of former Tory MP John Cummins, who, last year, became leader of the party, which, like the B.C. Liberals, has no affiliation with its federal namesake. Only about a third of party members cast ballots in the vote.

Mr. Kljajic noted that John van Dongen, a former B.C. Liberal cabinet minister who defected to the Conservatives earlier this year only to walk out of the annual general meeting, should have been given a "hero's welcome" for his contributions to the Conservatives.

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"If he wasn't made Deputy Leader immediately, he of all people should have been a major factor in determining the party's direction. Instead, he was sidelined, ignored, and frustrated in his attempts to change the party's direction to that of a credible alternative to the BC Liberals and BC NDP," says the statement.

" No cooperation, no explanations, no olive branches from the party leadership."

Mr. van Dongen, a former solicitor general, says he left the party because he thought Mr. Cummins had done nothing to build support among voters beyond protest-vote levels, was unfit to be premier, and failed to consult with him.

The day before the annual general meeting, John Martin – the party's candidate in the recent Chilliwack-Hope byelection – defected to the B.C. Liberals, saying he had lost faith with the Conservatives. Mr. Martin ran third in the byelection.

Mr. Kljajic also noted that party administration, finances and organization "are dismal" for an organization that, months ago, rivalled the Liberals for support in public-opinion polls.

"But worst of all is the party leadership. Avoidance of due process, decisions behind closed doors, a total lack of transparency."

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And he took issue with advisors to Mr. Cummins, calling them "Neanderthal has-beens no longer connected to the interests of present and future generations."

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About the Author
B.C. reporter

Ian Bailey is a Vancouver-based reporter for The Globe and Mail.  He covers politics and general news. Prior to arriving at The Globe and Mail, he reported from Toronto and St. John’s for The Canadian Press.  He has also covered British Columbia for CP, The National Post and The Province. More

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