Editorial — Stirring up dissent in Conservative ranks

John Cummins has issued an ultimatum — BC Conservatives who are publicly saying he should step down as party leader have to either get behind him or leave the party.

The Langley resident, who recently received 70 per cent backing from party members, is right to feel aggrieved, but the message being sent isn’t one to cause undecided voters to flock to the party. Instead, it sounds like top-down management, something that can be notoriously difficult to enforce.

This is particularly true in an organization like the BC Conservatives, which was all but dead for years until picking up a lot of steam in the past 18 months. There is no tradition of ironclad party discipline, and even in parties with tighter discipline like the NDP, there is no shortage of dissent.

However, it is worth taking a closer look at just who is manufacturing the dissent. On the eve of the recent party AGM,  the BC Liberals organized a press conference to trumpet the fact that former Conservative candidate John Martin was coming over to their party.

This was designed to set the stage for doubt, and it worked beautifully. The following day, after Cummins was endorsed by party members, MLA John Van Dongen quit the party in mid-AGM — in part because he and Cummins did not work well  together.

While Van Dongen certainly isn’t taking orders from the Liberals, the party he quit six months ago, it is quite likely that backroom Liberals are behind some of the continued dissent in Conservative ranks. Two former directors who were agitating against Cummins at the AGM have now joined the Liberals.

One can be sure their brains are being mined for information.

The Liberals want to take out the Conservatives before the next election and have the anti-NDP vote to themselves. That may be a tall order.

If the Conservatives stay sufficiently  organized to run candidates in all ridings, the BC Liberals will lose. That’s because there are enough former Liberal supporters ready to vote for an alternative.

The BC Conservatives have little chance of electing any  MLAs. However, they still have enormous potential to take votes from the Liberals. If they can get five per cent of the vote next May, this will ensure the NDP forms the next provincial government.

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