B.C. Conservative leader John Cummins speaks at the Village Green Hotel Friday.

B.C. Conservative leader John Cummins speaks at the Village Green Hotel Friday.

John Cummins casts eye on premier’s chair

B.C. Conservative leader John Cummins made a forecast for next spring’s provincial election while speaking at the Village Green Hotel

John Cummins is looking towards the brass ring.

The B.C. Conservative leader made a forecast for next spring’s provincial election while speaking to about 70 people at the Village Green  Hotel Friday.

“It will be a fight between the Conservatives and the NDP for government in this province,” he said.

Recent polls have placed the B.C. Conservatives in a virtual dead-heat with the ruling Liberals, with the NDP garnering about 50 per cent popularity.

“Our support is growing and people like what they hear,” said Cummins, who has been making stops across the Interior in the last few days.

While the Conservatives only got two per cent of the vote in 2009, Cummins claims many British Columbians have been turned off by Premier Christy Clark because she has been unable to present a vision for the province.

“They are clamoring, they want a viable option.”

Among the issues Cummins tackled during his stop was overcrowding at Vernon Jubilee Hospital and the lack of acute care beds.

“It’s appalling. The government had money to build the structure but didn’t have the money to equip it and provide the staff to operate it,” he said of the Polson tower.

The Ministry of Health recently announced a planning process for completing two shelled-in floors in the tower for beds. A timeline, though, has not been established for the floors to be constructed and it’s not known what the cost of the project will be.

Cummins says there is too much bureaucracy in health care “soaking up money” and health authority boards need meaningful local representation to ensure concerns are addressed.

“We need to take a careful look at health care spending.”

Cummins also told the crowd that the Liberals’ economic policies are forcing people to abandon B.C. to look for work.

“The people leaving are the entrepreneurs and skilled people,” he said.

“The last time that happened was when Glen Clark was premier. We need to turn that around.”

The answer, says Cummins, is to proceed with expanded resource development while continuing with environmental assessments.

“British Columbians want to know the environmental consequences of projects. Put timelines on them (assessments) so these projects can go ahead,” he said.

The new Family Day statutory holiday was another target for the former Delta MP.

“It’s warm and fuzzy and nice to think we need a break in February but it’s a cost to business,” said Cummins.

“If they stay open, they will have to pay overtime rates to their employees.”

Cummins also demanded Victoria not sell the Liquor Distribution Branch to private interests because it could lead to higher prices for independent liquor stores and consumers.

Ian Tribes, Vernon-Monashee B.C. Conservatives president, was pleased with the turnout at Friday’s session.

“People realize the Conservatives are a force to be reckoned with and the need for positive change won’t come from the other two parties,” he said.