You know your party is in trouble when the president calls the cops on one of his own members.
That's the state the B.C. Conservatives have reached, and there's potential for things to get even worse. Four months ago, the party appeared to be an optimistic upstart with one seat in the legislature and a theoretical chance at winning several more.
Today, it's a stalled-out shell of its former self, minus its MLA, some of its members and most of its momentum.
It's been a bumpy, downhill ride. One of the lowest points was reached last week, when an argument over the future of the Esquimalt-Royal Roads constituency association culminated in two Victoria police officers visiting a former candidate.
Esquimalt barber Scott Attrill was picked as the candidate just as all the party's internal troubles were coming to a head.
Michael Hubbard, the former head of the association, said the group was a bit uneasy about leader John Cummins' performance over the past year. But they went along with him because the potential for growth was encouraging.
"As the election neared, our group had trouble with the direction the party was taking," he said in an interview.
Cummins was taking a lot of credit for the jump in the polling numbers, when members thought it was more a result of the B.C. Liberals slipping, he said.
The conduct of the executive and the leader in the run-up to the annual general meeting in September also provoked concern.
Hubbard said they belittled the need for a leadership review when it was actually a constitutional requirement. Cummins got 70 per cent support when it was conducted, but Hubbard said scarcely 30 per cent of the membership voted, and many were left out of the balloting process.
After MLA John van Dongen bolted and the full-scale mutiny developed, the troubles peaked with Hubbard's group.
He and the board met Oct. 18 and decided to quit, citing unanimous lack of confidence in Cummins. Earlier, candidate Attrill called party president Al Siebring in what he described as an effort to resolve the dispute.
Shortly after, his candidacy was revoked. He responded with an email to Siebring that said, in effect: "Beware of my wrath."
Siebring said the party board decided that he should complain to the police about the language used. That prompted the visit from two police officers, who talked email etiquette with Attrill for a half-hour.
Siebring said Wednesday he took the message as a threat and that Attrill had sent out an earlier critical email about Cummins that wasn't accurate.
The Esquimalt group wasn't prepared to live with the results of the annual general meeting, he said.
Attrill, Hubbard and others are now fully disengaged from the operation of the party and have no plans to get involved as long as Cummins remains in control.
Hubbard was one of the 15 members who received a letter of censure from Siebring last month.
He said he considered it a "total insult."
He responded last week with a few choice words to the leadership. "You should all hang your heads in shame.
With your arrogance and stupidity, you have managed to destroy the conservative dreams of so many people in this province."
To salt the wounds, the departing executive canvassed donors and they all requested their donations be returned to them. So $2,630 was handed back to contributors. That leaves the B.C. Conservatives with an empty constituency association on the verge of being disbanded, and $269.56 in its bank account.
It's not that they had much of a chance against NDP MLA Maurine Kariaganis. It's that the local drama is a small example of what seems to be happening in other regions.
Part of Cummins' response to the troubles was to form a "unity committee" to bring the factions back together. The next meeting of that group is Nov. 10.
It's likely to be a long meeting. Just So You Know: With so many determinedly unhappy members and ex-members, there's a distinct chance that the courts will be the next battleground in this struggle.
No wonder the B.C. Liberals were so confident and enthusiastic at their Whistler convention. One of their big worries - vote-splitting - is easing day by day.
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