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BC Politics

Please Advise! Who Will Win the BC MLA Game of Musical Chairs?

A BC United defection and NDP ejection. Dr. Steve shines light on what it all means.

Steve Burgess 19 Sep 2023The Tyee

Steve Burgess writes about politics and culture for The Tyee. Read his previous articles.

[Editor’s note: Steve Burgess is an accredited spin doctor with a PhD in Centrifugal Rhetoric from the University of SASE, situated on the lovely campus of PO Box 7650, Cayman Islands. In this space he dispenses PR advice to politicians, the rich and famous, the troubled and well-heeled, the wealthy and gullible.]

Dear Dr. Steve,

Last week Abbotsford South MLA Bruce Banman defected from the BC United party to join the BC Conservatives, following Conservative Party Leader John Rustad, also a former BC Liberal MLA. This gives the Conservatives two MLAS and official party status in the legislature.

Are the BC Conservatives a serious challenger on the right?


Fraser Val

Dear Val,

Yes, the BC Conservatives are now an official party. What is a political party? It depends where you are. If you are at a performance of Beetlejuice: The Musical at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, a political party is whatever’s going on in Congresswoman Lauren Boebert's row.

But in the B.C. legislature, a political party is any group with at least two sitting MLAs. The BC Conservatives now join the NDP, Greens and BC United in that category.

Official party status confers significant benefits. It means you are exempt from latrine duty. When it is someone's birthday, you are offered cake (with 15 MLAS, a slice with a candle in it). And in the legislature break room, the sergeant-at-arms will safeguard your container of lasagna. Lacking official party status, there is no protection for any leftovers placed in the fridge, even if clearly labelled “JOHN RUSTAD'S BURRITO, DO NOT TOUCH.” Life is tough for legislature loners. It's kind of like prison — you need a gang.

There's no doubt the BC Conservatives are building momentum. At this point though, it's not really political momentum — it’s more like Guinness Book of World Records momentum. They are shooting for a new mark in the category. How many MLAs can a party have without actually getting anybody elected? That's got to be in the Guinness Book somewhere, alongside “Most hot dogs eaten during an appendectomy” or “Most salamanders balanced on a live cat.”

The Conservatives might be able to add another salamander, too. Premier David Eby recently announced the mysterious ouster of Adam Walker, MLA for Parksville-Qualicum, from the NDP caucus. Few details have emerged.

“What I can say is that we received a complaint from an employee in July,” Eby said. “This was not a sexual harassment complaint.... Based on the findings of [a] caucus investigation, I made the determination that Mr. Walker could not continue in our caucus. This is not a criminal matter.”

Could it be a complaint was lodged after Walker ate John Rustad's clearly marked breakfast burrito? Did the incident involve a cabinet minister and a whoopie cushion? Was Walker recently in Denver to attend a performance of Beetlejuice? We cannot know for sure. But if Walker wants his own lunch to be safe in the break room fridge he’d better find himself a new gang, pronto. Joining the BC Conservatives might be a stretch for an elected NDP MLA, but if you’re in politics, stretching comes with the job. Walker might suddenly discover his affinity with freedom-loving truck convoys and “F*ck Trudeau” banners.

Meanwhile, these are tough times for BC United Leader Kevin Falcon. A recent poll by Mainstreet Research shows the BC Conservatives running ahead of BC United in support.

Dr. Steve suggests there may be a silver lining in this for Falcon. If the sugar high from this new poll hits the BC Conservatives hard, they might aim to become the new right-wing party in B.C., just as Gordon Campbell’s Liberals once replaced Social Credit.

Dr. Steve thinks that would be a mistake. At this point the BC Conservatives’ safest bet would be to build a niche as the provincial crank party, home to climate-change-denying, vaccines-will-grow-you-a-third-eye voters alienated by reality-based ballot options. If they aim to moderate themselves instead, right-of-centre voters will likely stick with Falcon’s party.

But Dr. Steve sees little likelihood provincial Conservatives will practise moderation. Dr. Steve doubts they could spell moderation. The BC Conservatives are more likely to remain a niche outfit, which presents more of a danger for BC United — in that way they could carve off a small but vital chunk of the BC United base.

BC United is starting to look more like BC Divorced. If Falcon isn’t careful, pretty soon someone is going to be eating his lunch.  [Tyee]

Read more: BC Politics

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