‘Non-competition’ plan from BC United rejected by BC Conservatives

Click to play video: 'BC Conservatives reject co-operation plan pitched by BC United'
BC Conservatives reject co-operation plan pitched by BC United
It looks like BC United's attempts to work with the BC Conservatives to defeat the NDP have come to a halt, with one party leader blaming the other. But the reason they will not unite depends on who you talk to. Richard Zussman reports. – May 24, 2024

The leader of British Columbia’s Official Opposition confirmed Friday that there will be no cooperation between his party and the upstart BC Conservatives come October’s election.

Recent polling has put Kevin Falcon’s BC United in a tie for third place with the BC Greens. The BC Conservatives are solidly in second place.

The prospect of a vote split on the right wing of B.C. provincial politics led to intense talks of a possible merger, which fully collapsed last week.

Click to play video: 'BC Conservatives gaining traction says poll'
BC Conservatives gaining traction says poll

On Friday, Falcon revealed BC United had also pitched a “non-competition framework” during two meetings this month with BC Conservatives. An agreement would have seen candidates stand down to avoid vote splitting in some ridings and keep the parties from attacking one another.

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Falcon said BC Conservative Leader John Rustad rejected the overture on Thursday “despite common ground,” and had not made a counteroffer.

“John Rustad ultimately made the decision that that’s not something he wants to proceed with, and he is going to put his personal ambitions as he views them above the best interests of the province,” Falcon said.

“While I may disagree with his decision, I respect the fact the decision has been made”

Rustad was quick to respond, slamming Falcon for rejecting his previous merger overtures before coming to the table amid low polling numbers.

“We tried once again before Christmas and we were told to f–k off, we tried again in February, we were told that they’re interested but they would be dictating the terms, and clearly Kevin Falcon still thinks he’s going to be dictating the terms,” Rustad said.

In response to a statement Rustad posted to social media laying out the same message, Falcon denied the claim of a February overture or that anyone “with any authority to negotiate on behalf of BC United has ever told the BC Conservatives to “F#ck off.”

According to Falcon, the proposed agreement would have seen the two parties avoid turning their rhetorical guns on one another and agree to form a coalition government if they won more seats combined than the NDP.

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Click to play video: 'Political Panel: Merger talks with BC United and BC Conservatives'
Political Panel: Merger talks with BC United and BC Conservatives

The proposal also would have committed the two parties to avoid running against each other in ridings where incumbent MLAs were up for re-election.

It would further have held the Conservatives to running in 47 ridings and BC United in 46 ridings, with open ridings selected through a “draft format.”

Last week, Rustad confirmed the BC Conservatives intend to field a full 93 candidates in the fall election, with him leading the party.

BC NDP Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon said the battle between the two opposition parties showed they are “so out of touch.”

“They are squabbling over backroom deals, not even paying attention to what British Columbians care about,” he said.

While he claimed the governing party was “indifferent” to who it faces is a primary challenger in the upcoming election, he also took a shot at the Conservatives.

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“When people start getting a sense of what John Rustad and the BC Conservatives are, they are going to have the same feeling many of us that know them (d0): against trans kids being able to play sports, not believing in climate change, first bringing in a carbon tax and now trying to convince people they are against it.”

While the two parties share common ground on a variety of issues, there also appears to be acrimony between the two leaders.

Falcon kicked Rustad out of the then-BC Liberal Party in 2022 after the latter shared a social media post with debunked claims questioning the link between carbon dioxide and climate change. Rustad went on to join the BC Conservatives and, in 2023, was elected leader.

As recently as last Thursday, Falcon publicly criticized Rustad over comments made by some of his Conservative candidates, stating, “I can’t merge with a party that has candidates that equates vaccines to Nazism or vaccines that create magnetism.”

Global News is seeking comment from Rustad and the BC Conservatives.

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