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British Columbia Cummins says he will lead B.C. Conservatives into 2013 election

British Columbia Conservative party leader John Cummins looks on while waiting for by-election results at Conservative candidate John Martin's campaign office in Chilliwack, B.C., on Thursday April 19, 2012.

DARRYL DYCK/The Globe and Mail

John Cummins, beset by leaked e-mails raising questions about his leadership of the B.C. Conservatives, emerged from a party meeting Saturday declaring he expects to survive a leadership vote this month and take his party into the 2013 election.

"Absolutely," Mr. Cummins told reporters, pressed on the point following the meeting at a Salvation Army Citiadel, from which the media was excluded.

Among other things, participants in the meeting agreed to hold leadership votes every two years instead of annually though Mr. Cummins will still face the results of such a vote over the party's looming annual general meeting on Sept.22.

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But both Mr. Cummins and other participants in the gathering said there was no sign of the critics, whose e-mails, released to the media, have raised questions about everything from a $4,000 monthly allowance he is receiving from the party to his ability to work with John van Dongen, a former B.C Liberal cabinet minister who defected to the Conservatives, giving them a sole seat in the B.C legislature.

"They weren't there," said Bob Bray, a party member from Campbell River, who is thinking of seeking the nomination there.

Mr. Cummins, a former Tory MP who was acclaimed leader of the party that has no links to its federal namesake, dismissed his critics as inevitable.

"That's just life. I'd like to have unanimous support. That's not reality," he said.

"Everybody is entitled to their own opinion. These sorts of things don't bother me."

Mr. Cummins said only his critics could explain their absence. "The folks who showed up here were interested in making things happen and that's what happened."

Mr. Cummins defended his $4,000 monthly allowance from the party - plus travel expenses - as a reasonable measure approved by the party's board because he is working 40 to 60 hours a week for the party and unable to earn other funds beyond his parliamentary pension.

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"It was not something I asked for," he noted.

"It certainly helps. There are expenses when you do these things. It has been draining."

Mr. van Dongen, who has been emphatically neutral on questions about Mr. Cummins' leadership, explained his stand after the meeting by saying he didn't want to sway members by taking a position.

"You can see the debate that's going on in the party - leaked minutes and that sort of thing. I'm going to let the members make up their own mind,' he said.

"You can see there's issues and concerns. We'll let the members decide and force them to think it through."

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