B.C. Conservatives embrace new leader

B.C. Conservatives vow to shake up provincial politics with a new leader waiting in the wings.

John Cummins, former Delta MP for 17 years, is leader designate after nominations closed Tuesday.

“It’s a major step forward,” said Wayne McGrath, party president and Vernon resident, of the fact the B.C. Conservatives have been leaderless for some time.

“We are delighted that someone of his caliber and experience would seek the leadership. He has the energy and profile needed to take a party that hasn’t had a lot of profile forward.”

McGrath is convinced the party’s fortunes will climb with Cummins and it will win seats in the next election, whether that occurs in 2013 or earlier.

“Ever since Christy Clark became premier, we’ve had a number of Liberal members come into our party. Memberships have been pouring in,” he said.

McGrath believes many people are dissatisfied with the direction the Liberals have taken in recent years and they are looking for an alternative.

“The party has taken a turn to the left,” he said of the Liberals.

“They are not the party of the people. They are the party of big government and big spending.”

But while McGrath welcomes Cummins’ leadership, he admits that the B.C. Conservatives have other steps to take if they are to become a political player.

“We have close to 2,000 members and about 50 associations. There are 85 constituencies so we have a ways to go,” said McGrath.

The Conservatives are currently working on policy platforms.

Eric Foster, Vernon-Monashee Liberal MLA, is watching the potential impact of Cummins on B.C. politics closely.

“John is certainly high profile and he brings credibility to the organization,” he said.

Foster isn’t too concerned that a strengthened B.C. Conservative party will undermine the Liberals’ popularity.

“It’s incumbent on us to keep our coalition together,” he said.

“We have to keep doing a good job and work towards the promises we’ve made.”

Cummins’ leadership is expected to be endorsed by Conservative members during a convention in Vancouver May 28.