BC Conservative Party leader John Rustad wants to project a straightforward approach that he hopes will appeal to voters.
“On so many major issues, the NDP, United and Green parties all come down on the same side,” Rustad explained in an interview with Black Press Media.
“My goal for the Conservative Party is to be a new option for people.
“I want to stand up for what is right and give people in this province another option, to be a party that will fight for British Columbians.”
Rustad will bring that message to a meet and greet session at the Best Western Plus hotel in Kelowna on Sunday, July 9, from 7 to 9 p.m.
“I was in Kelowna a couple of months ago and we had about 70 people come out and I’ve been asked by people there to come back,” said Rustad, the MLA for Nechako Lakes since 2005.
Rustad sees an opportunity for a resurgence of the Conservative Party in B.C. because he feels the current coalition under the NDP banner running Victoria is imploding on its own arrogance.
“We have seen this with past periods of coalition governments in B.C. Over time they become arrogant and begin to fall apart,” Rustad said.
“It happened to the Liberals back in the 1940s, which led to the Socreds, and they ran into problems in the 1980s, the NDP in the ’90s fell apart and that led to the Liberals.”
Rustad says coalition governments begin to fall apart because it attracts people as candidates interested in power for the sake of power, combined with the baggage of past decisions that begins to accumulate leading to splits in different political factions that make up a coalition.
“From time to time, you need to have a political renewal. You see the same pattern in other many other jurisdictions across the country.”
Faith in the Conservative camp as a new place for B.C. voters to embrace was given an uplift in the recent byelection results for the Langford-Juan de Fuca seat vacated by former B.C. premier John Horgan.
The NDP’s Ravi Parmar won the byelection as predicted, but finishing second ahead of the Green and Liberal hopefuls was Conservative candidate Mike Harris.
He said the party’s strong showing reinforced Rustad’s thinking that voters are looking for something new.
The Conservative Party platform is dedicated to lowering taxes, balancing the budget, expanding natural resource development, scrapping the carbon tax, reducing health care wait times and cracking down on violent crime.
“In my mind, yes there is some truth in that division. But I think what matters the most to people are the same thought values no matter where people live. “
But Rustad acknowledges he also hears about other issues:
• an education system focused on cultural rather than academic issues, that is not preparing students for becoming adults in a changing world
• the need to help other countries reduce climate change impacts rather than impose an expanding carbon tax in B.C. with limited global impact on the environment;
• that safe supply is overtaking promoting a pathway to drug addiction recovery; and
• making B.C. more competitive in the international marketplace.
As for affordable housing, Rustad says while civic, federal and provincial governments talk about solving affordable housing, the biggest costs generated to build a residential unit come from government taxes and fees.
“Governments need to step up to the plate and reduce their impact on the cost of housing.”
Climate change has also been an issue that has figured prominently in Rustad’s political career.
He was removed from the Liberal party caucus in 2022 after he boosted a social media post casting doubt on climate change science and urging people to “celebrate CO2.”
In posts on both Facebook and Twitter, Rustad shared a graphic and post arguing that people had been “hoodwinked” by climate change science and they should be glad CO2 is being emitted into the atmosphere.
Liberal leader Kevin Falcon responded by removing him from the Liberal caucus, saying Rustad had to be a “team player” on important issues facing B.C.
“I couldn’t get the satisfaction he’s prepared to be a team player, so I fired him from caucus,” Falcon told CBC News at the time.