Veteran MLA John van Dongen is quitting the B.C. Conservative party to sit as an independent in the legislature after party members voted against reviewing the leadership of John Cummins.
The former provincial Liberal, who defected to the Conservatives last spring, made the announcement after Conservative members voted around 70 per cent against holding a leadership review at the Conservatives annual general meeting Saturday in Langley.
Outside the meeting, van Dongen, who was the party's only MLA, said he could not "in all good conscience" remain part of a party with Cummins at the helm. "I am announcing today that I am turning in my B.C. Conservative membership and I will continue to sit as an independent in the legislature," he said. "I cannot carry on with a leader who probably doesn't care whether I stay or go."
The decision is a blow for Cummins's party, which has been rocked by a public battle over its leader, a star candidate defecting to the Liberals and losing support in the polls.
Out of 1,104 ballots asking members whether they were in favour of a leadership contest, only 28 per cent favoured a review of Cummins' leadership.
The vote was 788 to 316 in favour of keeping Cummins as leader.
After the vote, Cummins said he was delighted the party had voted in his favour. "We should continue to build and fight for the election, and now is not the time for a leadership convention."
Cummins, 70, who has been leader of the provincial Conservatives since May 2011, said he didn't know why some party members were against his leadership.
Earlier this week, a group working to oust Cummins announced it wanted to replace the party executive with its own slate. The group, which calls itself the Friends of the B.C.
Conservative Party, is led by former party candidate Ben Besler of Chilliwack. A group backing Cummins called the A-Team also emerged, led by North Cowichan councillor Al Siebring.
In March, van Dongen left the B.C. Liberal party over concerns about the leadership of Premier Christy Clark.
- Tiffany Crawford is a reporter with the Vancouver Sun