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Cummins interest shows BC Conservatives are serious: Farnworth

NDP leadership candidates cautiously welcomed former member of parliament John Cummins' announcement that he hopes to lead the BC Conservative Party.

"I think he'll shake things up a bit," said Mike Farnworth, one of five candidates to lead the provincial NDP. "He brings a credibility that shows the provincial Conservatives are serious about contesting the next election."

Many people in the BC Liberal Party's coalition of federal Liberals and Conservatives are uncomfortable with the leadership of Christy Clark, who is well connected on the Liberal side of the party, he said.

There are, however, some parts of the province that trade back and forth between NDP and Conservative candidates in federal elections, Farnworth pointed out. "I don't underestimate that," he said. "I think that it's a mistake for us to think an emergent Conservative party would only take votes away from the Liberals. They could also take votes away from New Democrats."

"I'm looking forward to the campaign whatever the configuration," said John Horgan, who is also running to lead the BC NDP. He acknowledged that the NDP has done better historically when votes on the right side of the political spectrum are split, but downplayed the importance of Cummins announcement.

"I'm delighted the Conservative Party has a credible candidate to head their organization, but I'm more concerned about taking on the leadership of my organization," he said. "Whenever there's an increase in diversity of opinion in the legislature, I think that's a good thing," he added, mentioning he supports moving to a system that uses proportional representation.

"I would say its a good day to be a New Democrat, but I've felt that way for the past 28 years," he said.

Cummins was an MP for 18 years, representing Delta-Richmond East before it was announced in early March that he would not seek re-election.

Making his announcement he dismissed concerns a revitalized Conservative party would split votes in the province, saying voters are hungry for another option: "The choice between the Liberals and NDP is like a choice between airline food and hospital food."

The Conservatives will pick a new leader on May 28.

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

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