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BC Conservative Campaign 'Smear' Ends in Resignations

Days before leadership election, a bout of nasty politicking recalls Cummins-era infighting.

By Andrew MacLeod 8 Apr 2014 | TheTyee.ca

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee's Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Find him on Twitter or reach him here.

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Days before B.C. Conservatives vote in their new leader, candidate Rick Peterson accepted the resignation of two key campaign members after an apparent misuse of the party's membership list.

With a week to go before British Columbia Conservative Party members elect a new leader, candidate Rick Peterson accepted the resignations of two key people from his campaign and apologized to one of his opponent's core supporters.

The disarray in the Peterson camp appears to have been the upshot of nasty politicking in the race to replace John Cummins, who quit as leader after months of party infighting and the failure to win any seats in the May 2013 election.

The current crisis began with an anonymous letter somebody sent to party members that was highly critical of Peterson. Some characterized the letter as a "smear."

People on Peterson's team responded by submitting an affidavit to the party's board accusing a supporter of Dan Brooks, Peterson's rival, as being behind the letter. A source said they also hoped to have Brooks' party membership stripped, which would have allowed Peterson to win the leadership uncontested.

Brooks said he and his team had nothing to do with the alleged smear letter, something Peterson's apology and the resignations appear to support.

Details of Peterson's email

Both campaign manager Jeff Bridge and party director-at-large David Wilder resigned from Peterson's campaign late last week, according to an April 4 email Peterson sent to the party's board of directors.

In the same email, Peterson apologized to Alan Forseth, a supporter of Brooks, for the allegations made by people working on his campaign.

Reached by phone, Peterson was combative and had little to say about the resignations or the apology. Asked about the matter, he responded, "How do you know that?"

He refused to discuss the contents of the email, noting the message was not intended for The Tyee. "It's an internal email meant to stay internal," he said.

Sent Friday afternoon, Peterson's email said, "I would like to extend a full apology to Alan Forseth, as well as to the Members of the BC Conservative Board of Directors, over an Affidavit concerning Alan that was forwarded to the Board earlier today on behalf of my campaign, without my prior knowledge or consent."

The message did not include any details of what was in the affidavit, but asked the party's board to ignore the document. "I would respectfully request that this Affadavit be withdrawn and not included in any discussions or business of the Board," he said. "I sincerely regret any embarrassment this may have caused."

He added, "I have accepted the resignations of Mr. Jeff Bridge and Mr. David Wilder from my leadership campaign. David will not be taking part in Saturday morning's scheduled Board meeting."

Reached by phone, Brooks said the dispute was related to an anonymous letter critical of Peterson that was mailed to the party's membership list. There was much speculation on who sent the letter, he said.

"Of course, a lot of people pointed their fingers at me from Rick's campaign," he said. "I didn't [send it], in case you're wondering. In the process of that, there were a lot of wild accusations flying around."

Cons need to show can govern selves: Brooks

Brooks acknowledged that there was at least one person on Peterson's campaign who wanted to have Brooks stripped of his party membership, but dismissed the idea as "ridiculous."

"It came out all right in the end," he said, noting people do strange things in the excitement of a leadership race. "It was stressful, but I think the crisis passed last week some time. I don't harbour any bad feelings."

Forseth asked for an apology, but both he and Brooks said neither of them asked for the resignations from the Peterson campaign.

"As far as I'm concerned, it's a matter that's done, over with, dealt with," said Forseth. "There was a little issue. A problem came up and I appreciate Rick dealt with it quickly."

Party members will choose between Peterson and Brooks at an April 11-12 convention in Richmond. "I just want to get this party to the finish line," Forseth said. "I'm just looking to see how the votes come out."

Brooks said the party's board deserves credit for taking the matter seriously and not doing anything rash. Whoever sent the letter out misused the membership list, and that needs to be resolved, he said.

The last time the party endured something similar it threw out a bunch of people, he noted. "They're doing it right and that makes a difference," he said. "We have to demonstrate we can govern ourselves."  [Tyee]

Read more: BC Politics

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