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BC Conservatives claim gain from Clark's Liberal win

The trickle of members out of the Christy Clark led BC Liberal Party began the night she was selected, says BC Conservative Party President Wayne McGrath.

"We're growing," he said. "We're experiencing growing pains, which is good."

Vernon radio station Sun FM reported the Conservatives have picked up almost 50 new members since Clark's victory, prompting former party spokesperson Dean Skoreyko to blog that McGrath is "delusional as ever" for thinking that's "something to crow about in the media . . . instead of being shamefully embarrassed."

McGrath said in a phone interview he took a guess when the radio reporter called and he keeps learning of new memberships coming in. "It's probably closer to 100, but I'm still guessing," he said. Laughing, he added, "I probably should have said 500. It's not always good to be honest."

Ten new memberships came in within an hour of Clark's Feb. 26 win, he said. "Right of the floor of the convention, some of them." And its been steady since then, he said, taking the party to about 2,000 members last week.

While the numbers might sound small compared to the Liberal or NDP parties, they are big gains for a party that had just 200 members 18 months ago, he said.

Clark's win was a "huge" boost for the Conservatives, McGrath said. "She is a well known, strong federal Liberal person." She's been very rough in recent years on the federal Conservatives, many of whom are also BC Liberal members, he said.

"I strongly believe it's going to be tough for Christy Clark to hold that coalition together," he said. The next hurdle for her will be to appoint a cabinet March 14 that keeps both wings of the party happy, he added. "There could be some alienated people there, possibly."

Aside from growing the membership, the Conservatives are focused on setting up constituency associations. There are now 42 registered, giving the party a presence in almost half the province's 85 constituencies. The party only had one constituency association registered 18 months ago, he said.

"We've got a ways to go yet but we're moving fast," he said. "Not as fast as I'd like."

The BC Conservatives have set May 28 to select a leader.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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