B.C.’s Conservatives have spent a good portion of this month filling news columns with the very public agony of their backroom ultimatums and mutinous brinksmanship.
It is hard to imagine how the party’s leader John Cummins can reverse his party’s slide into irrelevancy as he stubbornly presses on with efforts to purge party dissidents.
British Columbians who yearned for a free enterprise alternative to the beleaguered Liberal Party were well warned about Cummins. In March 201, former federal government house leader Jay Hill, a 17-year Ottawa veteran from B.C., warned that Cummins was “very foolish to breathe new life into another conservative party rather than work with Premier Christy Clark as the bona fide new leader of the coalition.”
Hill, speaking for sober-minded Conservatives, said “hopefully the vast majority of conservatives will stay with the Liberal Party as the coalition party and reject what John is doing.”
B.C. Conservatives should have paid attention. Hill knew Cummins well. “Certainly those of us that have worked very closely with John over the years recognize that he’s very headstrong,” he mused.
Another former Conservative MP, Stockwell Day, warned that he had “lived through years where we have seen the vote split … and the result was an NDP government and dark days for B.C.”
“Both people and investment flocked into Alberta, running from the economy-eroding policies of the NDP,” the former MP recalled. “I love B.C. too much to see that happen again. So I am not advocating anything that would risk that vote-splitting.” Perhaps almost two years later, the coalition building advice of Hill and Day will resonate as Conservatives sift through the wreckage of another week of bitter turmoil.
An Angus Reid poll indicates that B.C. voters are passing judgement quickly. Cummins disapproval rating has increased 11 percentage points in one month to 56 per cent. His party’s support is languishing at 16 per cent, down three points in a month, compared to the NDP with 49 per cent and the Liberals’ flat 26 per cent.