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B.C. United, B.C Conservatives look for ‘common ground’ to defeat NDP

B.C. United’s Kevin Falcon, Conservative John Rustad confirm talks on how parties can work together
B.C. United Leader Kevin Falcon Tuesday (May 14) confirmed the existence of talks to find “common ground” with the Conservative Party of B.C. to defeat the B.C. NDP government. Falcon was responding to earlier comments from Conservative leader John Rustad. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)

Leaders of both B.C. United and B.C. Conservative Party of B.C. Tuesday (May 14) confirmed the existence of talks sounding out what Kevin Falcon called “common ground” between the two parties.

But both he and Conservative Leader John Rustad also re-affirmed plans to run candidates in all 93 ridings.

Rustad said Tuesday (May 14) that nobody has directly approached him about merger talks, but confirmed the existence of ongoing conversations through third parties in the business community.

“There (are) some opportunities, there is some potential between the two parties to be able to do some things, but it’s limited,” Rustad said. With little more than five months until the next provincial election, time is also becoming an issue, he added.

“Yes, we have engaged in some discussions,” Falcon said, when asked about Rustad’s comments. “We got emissaries from both parties that are having discussions to see if we can find common ground, recognizing that the real enemy is the (B.C.) NDP government. Four more years of that government will be frankly economically devastating for (B.C.) and that’s why we have to put aside our own egos, our own party issues, everything else and just figure out whether there is common ground.”

But if Falcon and Rustad confirmed the existence of talks, both declined to comment on what any future cooperation might look like.

“I couldn’t speculate,” Rustad said. “All I do know is that the Conservative Party of British Columbia will run 93 candidates in the next election.”

Falcon was equally tight-lipped, saying that he won’t negotiate in public.

“We are going to run 93 candidates — don’t get me wrong,” he said. “But I think the issue is, is there enough common ground without getting into the details between us, to say, ‘is there a way we can work together?’”

According to Rustad, the provincial Conservatives have 62 nominated candidates, while B.C. United has 53 nominated candidates.

Falcon said both parties bring strength and weaknesses to the table.

“So when you have discussions like that, you’ve got to recognize they have a good name, even though they (the provincial and federal Conservatives) are very distinct parties,” Falcon said. “But we also have strengths too. We have organization…fund-raising, exceptional candidates and policies that are well thought-through.”

RELATED: New Abacus poll shows B.C. Conservatives within six points of B.C. NDP

These talks are unfolding against the backdrop of a new poll from Abacus showing B.C. United at 13 per cent, while the Conservative Party of B.C. sits at 34 per cent — six points behind the B.C. NDP. That poll is the latest in a series of polls, which have shown the Conservatives rising, while B.C. United has been slipping.

“Obviously, I’m not thrilled by those numbers,” Falcon said. “But on the other hand, it’s a strange dichotomy…we have got great organization happening on the ground and holding town halls across the province that are packed with people. So it is just strange, but maybe that’s British Columbia.”

Both Rustad and his caucus colleague Bruce Banman once sat with B.C. United’s predecessor, the B.C. Liberals. Falcon had kicked out Rustad in August 2022 over comments regarding climate change before the B.C. Liberals changed their names, while Banman left in the fall of 2023 after the name change had taken place.

Banman’s departure from B.C. United gave the provincial Conservatives party-status in the legislature with Rustad — who previously sat as an independent — having joined and won the leadership of the provincial Conservatives in the spring of 2023.

Rustad has in the past compared the rise of his Conservatives to the rise of the B.C. Liberals as challengers to the once-dynastic Social Credit Party of British Columbia, with the B.C. Liberals eventually replacing the Socreds as the preferred political vessel so-called free-enterprise-coalition. But the temporary existence of two parties on the right side of the political spectrum in the mid-1990s led to vote-splitting.

It is against this broader backgrounder that current discussions are unfolding. But Falcon also cited a more recent episode in B.C. political history — the 2013 victory of B.C. Liberals after being down in the polls.

“We’re still five months from the election and I do think it’s important to know that things can change,” he said. “Election campaigns matter.”

Wolf Depner

About the Author: Wolf Depner

I joined the national team with Black Press Media in 2023 from the Peninsula News Review, where I had reported on Vancouver Island's Saanich Peninsula since 2019.
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