A second British Columbia MLA has dealt a blow to BC United by quitting to join the Conservative Party of BC, which says it now has enough seats in the legislature to gain official party status.
“When I was elected MLA for Abbotsford South, I promised to bring the concerns of everyday hardworking people and families to the forefront in British Columbia’s legislature in Victoria,” said Bruce Banman in an emailed statement.
“I know firsthand that the Conservative Party of British Columbia is the only party that stands for what’s right in the legislature, rather than what’s politically convenient or politically correct,” he said. “As a Conservative MLA, I’m looking forward to having the opportunity to speak honestly and openly on behalf of my constituents.”
Banman, a former mayor of Abbotsford, was first elected to the legislature in 2020 as a BC Liberal, the party that has rebranded as BC United under leader Kevin Falcon. Banman served as the party’s critic for emergency management, climate readiness and citizens’ services.
He joins John Rustad, the MLA for Nechako Lakes and former BC Liberal cabinet minister who was kicked out of the BC Liberals a year ago, joined the BC Conservatives last February and became the conservative leader in March after running unopposed for the position.
The BC Conservatives have been gaining ground on BC United with the party’s candidate in a June byelection in Langford-Juan de Fuca placing a surprise second to the NDP’s Ravi Parmar.
A Mainstreet Research poll of 601 adults in the province at the end of August found 21-per-cent support for the Conservatives, which was behind the 30 per cent for the NDP, but ahead of BC United at 18 per cent and the BC Green Party at eight per cent. About 20 per cent of respondents were undecided and the poll had a margin of error of plus or minus four per cent.
Gaining official party status would give the Conservative caucus access to funding for staff and resources that they would not have as individual MLAs. The threshold for official party status was four MLAs until 2017 when the NDP government reduced it with the support of the three Green MLAs that then held seats in the legislature.
“Conservatives have common sense,” Banman said, stating the party’s opposition to carbon taxes. “We refuse to condone the ideological NDP education agenda that teaches students what to think instead of how to think; and, we will never support the myth of safe supply that kills British Columbians and poisons our communities with hard drugs.”
Five minutes after Banman’s statement came out, BC United Leader Falcon released his own expressing disappointment in Banman’s decision and saying his party will be nominating “incredible candidates” throughout the province, including one to run against Banman.
“BC United is the only party that can defeat the NDP government and act on the significant challenges facing British Columbians,” Falcon said. “That includes lowering taxes, addressing the cost of living, getting our economy and natural resource sector back on track, and making our streets safe again by ensuring criminals face consequences.”
Banman has “unfortunately” chosen a different path, Falcon said. “While his departure was not entirely unexpected due to ongoing internal management challenges with Bruce, his decision betrays the Abbotsford constituents who elected him as a member of our team.”
BC United will continue championing big ideas and working to form government after the next election, he said.
“Instead of behind-the-scenes political manoeuvrings, we’ve been busy holding the NDP government accountable and working on a plan to restore public safety, close David Eby’s revolving door justice system, and prioritize the interests of law-abiding British Columbians.”
The B.C. legislature returns for its fall sitting starting Oct. 3. The next general B.C. election is scheduled for Oct. 19, 2024.
Read more: BC Politics