BC United MLA defects to BC Conservatives just months before provincial election

Click to play video: 'Another B.C. United M.L.A. defects'
Another B.C. United M.L.A. defects
Cariboo-Chilcotin M.L.A. Lorne Doerkson is the latest B.C. United M.L.A. to defect to the provincial Conservatives, and others could also be jumping ship. Richard Zussman reports. – May 31, 2024

There was more pre-election political drama in British Columbia on Friday, as a high-profile BC United MLA crossed the floor to join the BC Conservatives.

First-term MLA Lorn Doerkson represents the Cariboo-Chilcotin riding and served as caucus chair for BC United until making the switch.

“I am making a change because I believe this upcoming election is simply too consequential,” Doerkson said in a media release.

He said he believed the Conservatives were the only party capable of beating B.C.’s governing NDP.

Click to play video: 'BC MLA Lorne Doerkson speaks about why he’s leaving the BC United party'
BC MLA Lorne Doerkson speaks about why he’s leaving the BC United party

Speaking to media about the defection, Doerkson said the BC Conservatives were one of the largest grassroots movements he’s seen, and that he had been mulling the switch for some time.

Story continues below advertisement

He said the final straw was the inability of the two parties to come up with an agreement to cooperate, adding that there was significant support from his constituents for making the switch.

BC Conservative leader John Rustad said he was “very pleased” to welcome Doerkson to his caucus.


BC United slammed the defection in a statement, saying Doerkson’s decision was driven by concern over the polls and a desire to protect his MLA pension.

Breaking news from Canada and around the world sent to your email, as it happens.

“We’re disappointed to hear Lorne Doerkson has decided to join John Rustad’s BC Conservatives, which includes candidates who are anti-LGBTQ+, anti-choice, and COVID-19/United Nations conspiracy theorists,” party spokesperson Adam Wilson said.

Just days ago Doerkson appeared — at least publicly — to be solidly in the BC United camp, re-sharing partisan social media posts attacking the BC Conservatives.

BC United MLA defects to BC Conservatives just months before provincial election - image

In the wake of the defection, NDP Premier David Eby took a shot at both parties, saying it showed “just how transparent these sort of scrabbling politicians are that they have no core value that guides them.”

Story continues below advertisement

Doerkson’s defection brings the number of BC Conservatives in the legislature to three, all of whom were former members of BC United.

The move comes amid an acrimonious battle between BC United, which currently serves as the Official Opposition, but which recent polling shows is badly trailing the upstart BC Conservatives.

An Angus Reid Institute poll released Thursday showed the BC NDP with 41 per cent support, the BC Conservatives in second place with 30 per cent support and BC United in third with 16 per cent support.

UBC Political Scientist Gerald Baier said the defection, fewer than five months before B.C.’s provincial election, is significant.

Story continues below advertisement

“This isn’t really a sort of backbench MLA. This is somebody who was serving as caucus chair, somebody presumably close to decision-making for the BC United party,” Baier said.

“If you are starting to lose some of your ‘frontbenchers,’ some of the people who are more high profile or represent a big part of what the party is, that suggests maybe not necessarily a failure of leadership, although that could be a part of the explanation, but an inability to sort of hold things together.”

Click to play video: 'BC Conservative candidate on Vancouver Island resigns'
BC Conservative candidate on Vancouver Island resigns

The defection comes after talks of a potential merger or some form of non-competition agreement between the two parties on the right flank of B.C. politics broke down publicly.

It also comes days after one of the BC Conservatives’ Vancouver Island candidates resigned over recent social media posts attacking some LGBTQ2 people, Pride, abortion and vaccine mandates.


Sponsored content