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Les Leyne: Conservative duo heats up debate with talk of chickens, pots and edible insects

For the first time in 50 years, the Conservative Party of B.C. had two MLAs in the house, and their hawkish views have people literally rolling their eyes at times.
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John Rustad, leader of the B.C. Conservatives, speaks to reporters in February. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Dirk Meissner

While the fall legislative session was consumed with housing, there was a novelty act playing in the wings.

For the first time in 50 years, the Conservative Party of B.C. had two MLAs in the house.

If you can remember the last time that happened, you probably have grey hair.

Dr. Scott Wallace and Hugh Curtis formed an Oak Bay-Saanich Conservative tag team in 1973 during Dave Barrett’s term as premier. It didn’t last long.

Flash forward 13 elections and now there’s a new right-wing duo: Conservative Leader John Rustad (Nechako Lakes) and his Abbotsford sidekick, Bruce Banman.

Rustad is a cast-off, banished from BC United for his views on climate change. Banman is a defector who left BC United over various policy disagreements.

The duo has established hawkish views that have people literally rolling their eyes at times.

BC United MLAs are leery of their former colleagues and have tailored a few of their policies in an effort to head off the duo’s growth potential.

B.C. Greens are aghast at their stands, and their conduct.

Green House Leader Adam Olsen said the two act like “two teenage boys joyriding in their parents’ 1978 Buick.”

Premier David Eby takes every chance to highlight the danger they pose to B.C. all the while hoping they can cut into the BC United vote.

Just one week into their debut, he had accused them of picking on kids, building a “toxic power base” and “representing a threat to our functioning democracy.”

Eby got a standing ovation from both NDP and BC United MLAs after one attack. Rustad sniffed that it just shows he’s up against a “uniparty” legislature. He warned later: “For every voter that our party is taking from the defunct BC United party, we are also taking one from the NDP.”

It was a Conservative stance against Sexual Orientation Gender Identification modules in schools that prompted the attacks above.

Banman, “as a distraught father and grandfather,” followed that up by reading explicitly sexual insults from a book into the record, objecting to it being in school libraries.

Expressing his disgust for safe supply of hard drugs, Rustad later said: “Drug dealers love this NDP government. The only problem drug dealers have is that this government is the biggest competition …”

Pushing another hot button favored by the freedom convoy set, Banman summed up B.C.’s response to COVID-19 as: “hard-working people [being] sucked into a whirlpool of chaos … brutal restrictions on personal freedoms and a heavy-handed approach that failed the most vulnerable …”

Citing the requirement that health workers be vaccinated, he asked Health Minister Adrian Dix: “Will you fire Dr. Bonnie Henry, or do you want to wait for the working-class, everyday British Columbians to elect a Conservative government and fire you both?”

(The short answer from Dix was: B.C. had the best record in Canada. So, no, he won’t.)

Also on the medical front, Banman referred to the redrawing of health profession colleges as “medical tyranny.”

The pair’s contributions during the debate on the housing measures ran equally hot.

“Families are being crushed by this unbelievable weight of the socialist NDP’s anti-homeowner agenda,” said Rustad.

“This approach has been tried in other jurisdictions. Cuba, Venezuela, Argentina, North Korea and even the old Soviet Union …”

(Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon’s response: “I don’t know where to start…”)

It’s the carbon tax the Conservatives are pinning most of their hopes on, when it comes to building their base.

Rustad finally conceded last week that climate change is human-caused. But it’s not a crisis, just “hype, scare tactics and false promises,” he said.

Highlighting the escalating cost of the carbon tax dovetails with the affordability crisis. It coincided with a renewed national argument about its merits. That puts them on the leading edge, if the anti-taxers start appealing to more people.

Rustad closed off the inaugural performance on Thursday by saying the NDP has replaced the old “chicken in every pot” promise with a new stance. The carbon tax “takes two chickens out of every family’s pot every time they fill up the tank.”

Still on food, he told reporters later there is a UN plan to endorse substituting insect protein for meat, and a plant near Ottawa is already producing some.

He’s against that, too.

Will the carbon tax mean people have to eat bugs because they can’t afford those chickens anymore?

Stay tuned for more dire warnings when their platform rolls out soon.

lleyne@timescolonist.com