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BC Conservatives gather and campaign for executive positions

About 150 BC Conservatives were on hand as the party's annual general meeting began Friday night with at a meet and greet with leader John Cummins. The AGM is being held at Langley Events Centre in Langley.

The event began just hours after high-profile BC Conservative John Martin, who contested the Chilliwack-Hope byelection for the party in April, announced he was leaving the party to join the BC Liberals. The NDP's Gwen O'Mahony won that race with 41 per cent of the vote, the first time the NDP has ever won a Chilliwack seat. Martin came third behind Liberal Laurie Throness.

The Conservatives' only MLA, John Van Dongen, was among those on hand at the Friday event.

Representatives of the two rival slates seeking control of the party executive were circulating at the event, with each handing buttons out to delegates. Al Siebring is heading the A Team slate which supports Cummins' leadership, while Ben Besler heads Friends of the BC Conservatives, which wants a leadership review. Linda Bellamy and Dan Denis of Langley are on the A Team slate.

Jordan Bateman of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation was guest speaker at the Friday event, Bateman called for an end to the carbon tax, which he said has done nothing to reduce emissions but has severely penalized individuals and businesses. He said the CTF wants the entire tax and all associated credits scrapped.

Bateman said B.C. needs leaders with vision, in the mould of past premiers Richard McBride, Duff Pattullo, John Hart, W.A.C. Bennett, Bill Bennett and "even Gordon Campbell in his first term."

He said the provincial government must balance the budget and start paying down debt, because it is a burden on future generations of taxpayers. He said B.C. needs to follow the example Ralph Klein set in Alberta when he was premier, and bring in debt repayment legislation.

Bateman also repeated the CTF's call for reduced gas taxes in the Lower Mainland, where drivers pay the highest gas taxes in North America. He said a tax revolt is actually underway, with many Lower Mainland drivers either going to the Fraser Valley or the U.S. for gas. Gas sales in Abbotsford have risen by 33 per cent in past five years, while the population has risen five and one-half per cent.

Siebring told Bateman that the BC Conservatives have made a policy commitment to end the carbon tax and all credits associated with it.

The AGM on Saturday begins with a morning closed-door session. Results of a ballot on whether there should be a leadership review will be released about noon, just before Cummins is scheduled to speak. Results of elections for executive positions will be announced later in the afternoon.

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