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Rustad and Falcon Trade Insults as Talks Fail

BC’s Conservatives reject United’s proposal to avoid attacks and co-operate on running candidates.

Andrew MacLeod 27 May 2024The Tyee

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s legislative bureau chief in Victoria and the author of All Together Healthy (Douglas & McIntyre, 2018). Find him on X or reach him at .

BC United and the province’s Conservative party failed to reach an agreement in recent talks about co-operating ahead of the October election.

BC United Leader Kevin Falcon told reporters Friday that both parties were hearing from people who wanted them to work together to defeat the sitting NDP government.

“Unfortunately I have to stand and tell you today that John Rustad ultimately made the decision that that’s not something he wants to proceed with and he is going to put his personal ambitions as he views them above the best interests of the province,” Falcon said.

In an emailed statement Conservative Rustad said there will be no merging of the two parties ahead of the election and that Falcon rejected earlier offers from the Conservatives to work together starting last December, either outright or by insisting he would dictate the terms.

“On May 23, 2024, a mere four months before the election and now that the BC United is tied with the Green Party at 12 per cent in recent polls, he finally presented our Conservative team an ‘offer,’” said Rustad.

“Time and time again, and in this ‘offer,’ Kevin Falcon has demonstrated that he will always put himself first and will do absolutely anything for power,” he said.

Falcon is putting his own interests “before the BC United party, before his own candidates, and ultimately before the province,” Rustad said.

According to Falcon, talks took place on May 2 and May 22 in Vancouver.

United was represented by Hamish Marshall, a political consultant with strong federal Conservative connections who ran the party’s national campaign ahead of the 2019 election, and Caroline Elliott, a BC United candidate and former party vice-president.

The B.C. Conservatives had Angelo Isidorou, the party’s executive director, at both meetings. The party’s president, Aisha Estey, was at the first one, and Azim Jiwani, Rustad’s chief of staff, was at the second.

According to United, the party had proposed a “non-competition framework” that would have kept the parties’ leadership, fundraising and campaigns separate, while agreeing not to run candidates against each other’s incumbents or to attack one another during the campaign.

“If the combined seat total in the election exceeds the NDP the parties agree to form a coalition government,” the proposed agreement said. “The Premier will be the party leader that won more seats, while the party leader that wins the smaller number of seats will be the Deputy Premier and hold a senior ministerial portfolio. Cabinet seats would be allocated in proportion to the number of seats held by each party.”

According to Falcon, Rustad rejected the agreement and declined to make a counter-proposal.

“While I may disagree with his decision, I respect the fact the decision’s been made,” said Falcon, adding that despite recent polling he’s confident BC United is the best alternative to the NDP.

“I can tell you there’s a lot more to an election than just what polls are saying,” he said. “There’s organization, there’s fundraising, there’s candidate quality, there’s policies. All of those things matter at the end of the day and I can guarantee you this, when the public starts to actually pay attention and says let’s look around and see what the options are... I think they’re going to look at us and say those people are ready to govern.”

Rustad’s statement said that “any discussions or ‘offers’ have been completely unserious and dishonest” despite Falcon’s public statements about putting his ego aside.

“Kevin Falcon also stated he didn’t want to make these talks public, yet here we are,” Rustad said. “Falcon is clearly irrational and unreasonable and prepared to lie. This makes it impossible to trust anything he says.”

The Conservatives are committed to running candidates in all 93 provincial constituencies and the election will be between the Conservatives and the NDP, he said.

A former BC Liberal cabinet minister, Rustad became leader of the Conservatives a year ago after Falcon booted him from BC United over a dispute around climate change and party discipline. Last September Abbotsford South MLA Bruce Banman left BC United to join the Conservatives, and the pair are the party’s only MLAs.

Polls began showing the Conservatives even with BC United last October and they have continued to gain support and close on the NDP.

NDP Premier David Eby has been taking opportunities to criticize the Conservative party’s policies and ideology, showing he takes the party’s rise seriously.  [Tyee]

Read more: BC Politics

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