Wielding a stern but unwavering face, Conservative leader John Cummins blamed tonight's BC Liberals' election win -- and his party's bewildering implosion -- on British Columbians' fears of the New Democrat "dark decade" in power.
Failing to unseat Liberal cabinet minister Mary Polak -- not even broaching 12 per cent in the polls compared to her 52 per cent -- the 71-year-old former Reform and Alliance Member of Parliament oversaw a campaign that came nowhere near electing a single MLA.
"You can't begin to tell me that British Columbians chose the Liberal Party, when they can't keep their word to them," Cummins said. "They didn't.
"They were running away from the (NDP). . . Their dark decade of the nineties is still in peoples' minds."
Grilled repeatedly by reporters about his party's meteoric demise in a campaign which saw four candidates forced from the campaign over gaffes, Cummins frowned grimly at one point, swigging from a water bottle, as the questions continued.
But just like his campaign's daily updates -- often listing his breakfast choices and pickup truck's odometer readings -- Cummins' folksy charm was soon on display when asked if he is pleased that at least the NDP is not in government.
"I would only be pleased if both of them were run out of town!" Cummins chuckled, to uproarious laughter and applause from his supporters in a cramped 1,200-foot campaign office. "It was a choice between Tweedledee and Tweedledum -- or Tweedledumber. I don't have truck nor trade with either of them."
Without being able to wrest the backing of the federal party, Cummins stood little chance to woo small-c conservatives in the province. But as the night wore on, his mood shifted from grim to animated, particularly when The Tyee asked how he felt about the BC Liberals' endorsement by stalwart former Reform-Conservative MP Stockwell Day.
"I'll tell ya," he replied, "when I saw Stockwell Day running around as a Liberal, I certainly wasn't surprised. If that's as good as they can do, take him!
"What is it he liked about the Liberals? Did he like that they lied about BC Rail? Is that a Conservative value? Did he like them because they lied about the HST? Is that a Conservative value? I have no idea why someone like him would say, 'I can support these Liberals.' My record as a politician has been one of honesty; when I spoke up for my constituents at home in an election, I kept my word."
Branding the Liberals and NDP as parties beholden to their sizeable donors, Cummins vowed that -- whether or not his party keeps him on as leader -- there will always be a future for the party in B.C.
"It was a very aggressive, well-financed campaign to begin with," he said. "Let's not kid ourselves: at the end of the day, they're going to be answering to the people that put that big money up for their advertisements. They're not going to be looking out for me and thee.
"There's certainly room for a party that has a vision for British Columbia, that intends to look out for the folks here rather than special interest groups."
David P. Ball is reporting on the election for The Tyee.