Les Leyne: Strife still dogs B.C. Conservatives

British Columbia Conservatives have been gamely pressing ahead with an election strategy. They named a number of new candidates recently and released a fiscal outline of their campaign — at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre, no less.

It projects five years of balanced budgets, repeal of the carbon tax and more funding for the justice system. Leader John Cummins also came out strongly in favour of the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline, although that’s not likely the vote-getter he seems to think it is.

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But behind the scenes — as usual — the trouble and strife continue.

Two more board members have quit. Other shuffles raise a number of questions about how the party works and how much support candidates can count on come campaign time.

Greg Kazakoff, regional director for South Vancouver Island, resigned from the board and laid it all on the line in an email to members this week. After being asked by two presidents in a row to take on the job, he lasted a few short weeks at the post.

He found the party is run by a secret backroom cadre, and the board “blithely and blindly” does what it’s told. That echoes complaints last year of discontent.

“This party is, in my opinion, in a total mess,” he said.

The lifelong Conservative wrote that the trouble started when he was told to approve a candidate about whom he knew nothing.

He found it ludicrous and asked for more background from the candidate-selection committee. But the chairman wouldn’t even tell him who was on the committee. The board later voted down his proposal to make more candidate information available.

Kazakoff said the party no longer has an elected president, secretary or treasurer going into the critical election period.

Kazakoff said Cummins’s cadre is hand-picking candidates, including one who was previously rejected by a constituency group. “They appear to be arrogantly running roughshod over the wishes of a portion of the grassroots base of the party.”

He said as well that officials confirmed to him persistent rumours that the party’s fundraising has dried up.

Another party regional director for Prince George, Lawrence McDonald, recently resigned out of unhappiness with how the party is run.

Cummins pointed out Friday that Kazakoff still wants to run for the party in Oak Bay-Gordon Head.

Kazakoff confirmed he filed his papers. But he is more interested in representing the cause than the party. And he doesn’t expect much.

Just So You Know: Some long-range thinkers got together recently in the Lower Mainland to discuss scenarios for May 15.

As in, the day after an election in which the B.C. Liberal party could be annihilated and non-New Democrat voters start to wonder what to do next.

One person familiar with the session said the small group is laying the groundwork for a potential new party to take over the job of representing the free-enterprise vote.

They hold two assumptions. One, the B.C. Liberals will be beaten so badly they won’t be able to rebound.

And two, the B.C. Conservatives will fare just as badly, and won’t be able to take the Liberals’ place.

A brief history of redesigns: The Social Credit party held the free-enterprise vote together for the better part of a generation.

The B.C. Liberals took over the responsibility in the early 1990s and eventually won three elections.

The expectation of the informal group is that a new effort will be needed to recapture that bloc.

The group is planning to stay quiet through the upcoming campaign. But members are making plans and are believed to be reserving a number of names for a new party. They may introduce themselves publicly soon after the election.

B.C. Liberals are widely expected to take a hit, but could still survive and rebuild. The model is the NDP, which was reduced to two seats in 2001 and still managed to claw its way back to viability (over 12 years).

Those at the meeting doubt those prospects, so they contemplate a new-model launch, rather than a rebuild.

Call it Free Enterprise Coalition 3.0.

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