BC United leader defected to Conservatives


This move increases the number of seats held by the British Columbia Conservative Party in Parliament to three.

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The leader of British Columbia's official opposition has defected to the British Columbia Conservatives, adding to BC United's problems ahead of next fall's provincial election.

Conservative Party leader John Rustad and Lorne Doerkson, who represents the central Cariboo-Chilcotin constituency, announced the change on Friday. The change in faction increases the number of the party's representatives in parliament to three.

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Doerkson's departure from United came after talks between the two right-of-centre parties broke down as they tried to agree on a deal to avoid a vote-splitting move that would benefit the incumbent NDP government.

Doerkson said he is confident the Conservatives have the momentum needed to win the October election and beat David Eby's New Democrats.

“Honestly, I think the decision has been made for some time. It just seems to be a good fit for the Cariboo region. I mean, this is an incredible grassroots movement that's happening across British Columbia,” he said.

Doerkson said he believes many of the voters who voted for him under the United (then BC Liberal) flag now support the Conservatives.

He said their concerns included carbon pricing and problems in the forestry industry.

Earlier this month, the Conservatives rejected BC United's proposal to negotiate a “non-compete” agreement, with each party leader blaming the other for the collapse.

Doerkson said he did not know if he agreed with the decision not to make a deal.

“I think the fact is they didn't do that,” he said.

Doerkson was first elected in 2020 and served as the United States Shadow Secretary of State for Water, Land and Natural Resources Management and Rural Development and for Emergency Management and Climate Preparedness.

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Rustad called Doerkson “a good person whose heart is in the right place.”

“He has done a lot of work locally and supported his constituency during the very difficult fire periods,” he said on Friday. “He works very hard to support people and to advocate for the interests of his constituents.”

Rustad said his party was “ready to hold talks” with any other MPs who might be interested in switching parties. However, he declined to say whether these talks would actually take place.

“This is not something I would talk about in the media,” he said.

Both Rustad and his Conservative colleague Bruce Banman were previously members of United under the party's former name, the Liberals.

In a statement, United communications director Adam Wilson said the party was disappointed by Doerkson's decision.

“Lorne's decision was driven by concern about the poll results and a desire to protect his state-funded pension. He will have to defend that decision in the only poll that really matters – election day,” he said.

According to recent opinion polls, United has around 12 percent of the votes cast just five months before the election.

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At an independent press conference, Prime Minister David Eby said his government is focused on the things that matter to British Columbians, including housing and health care.

“It is clear to me that John Rustad, (United Party leader) Kevin Falcon and all the other politicians in their party are focused on how we can save our own skins.”

Before Doerkson's move, the distribution of seats in British Columbia's 87-seat parliament was: 55 NDP, 25 BC United, three BC Greens, two BC Conservatives and two Independents.

The number of seats is expected to rise to 93 at the next election and Rustad said he would run with a full list of candidates.

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