BC Conservative rivals square off

Vernon constituency president Ian Tribes adds name to list of 'Friends of John Cummins'

The BC Conservative Party annual general meeting Saturday is heading toward a showdown over leadership.

The party, which laboured in the political wilderness for years, gained traction after former Delta MP John Cummins became leader in May 2011, rising as high as 20 per cent in recent opinion polls. Now some party members want to challenge Cummins’ leadership.

They are running as a slate for party executive positions, headed by Ben Besler of Chilliwack, who ran for the party in the 2009 provincial election, when it was led by Wilf Hanni.

A pro-Cummins slate headed by director-at-large Al Siebring, a North Cowichan councillor, was announced in response. Siebring calls his slate the “A Team,” and it includes supporters who billed themselves as “Friends of John Cummins” in a series of news releases responding to calls for a leadership review. The list includes the party’s Vernon constituency president Ian Tribes.

Siebring said Wednesday that Cummins’ leadership is being questioned by “a few noisy individuals” who have damaged the party’s credibility at a critical time in preparation for the election next May. Siebring said only four of 26 board members are backing a leadership review, and he expects it to be voted down easily at Saturday’s meeting in Langley.

Cummins told Kamloops radio station CKNL Wednesday he isn’t too concerned about detractors within the party, calling it “the normal course of events” in any organization.

“The job after the weekend is to make sure that everybody’s onside and move forward,” Cummins said.

Party members are voting on whether his leadership should be reviewed, with ballots mailed to all BC Conservative members. Party treasurer Lambert Leung of Richmond, who is standing for re-election with the “A Team” slate, said some members mailed in their ballots and others are bringing them to Saturday’s meeting, where the results will be tabulated and announced.

Cummins is scheduled to address the membership at 12:30, and results of the vote for executive positions will be announced Saturday afternoon.

With Belsey running for party president, the dissident slate includes John Crocock, a former regional director for the Burnaby-Coquitlam region, Betty Newton of New Westminster, currently the deputy financial agent, Burnaby North constituency president Ariane Eckardt, Surrey regional director James Ram, Vancouver-Kingsway constituency president Milan Kljajic and Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows constituency president Robbie Armstrong.

The pro-Cummins slate is Siebring for president, Jim Sutherland of Kelowna for vice-president, Leung for treasurer, Linda Bellamy of Langley for secretary, and director-at-large candidates Dan Denis of Vancouver, Daniel Brooks of Vanderhoof, Doug Machan of Kelowna and Dennis Belliveau of Parksville-Qualicum.