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BC United MLA's defection to Conservative Party of BC gives them official party status

There was a major shift in B.C. politics Wednesday — Abbotsford MLA Bruce Banman left the BC United party to join the Conservative Party of BC.

Banman said his decision was motivated by a desire to speak for his constituents, without being muzzled.

“I believe that will be able to bring the concerns of my constituents – with an open heart and mind … in a more transparent and open manner than I was able to do underneath the party I was in,” Banman said Wednesday.

The move thrusts the Conservatives into official party status – they now have the minimum required two elected members of the legislature.

Banman – a former Abbotsford mayor — joins John Rustad, who was booted from the party formerly called the BC Liberals a year ago, before becoming leader of the provincial Conservatives.

Rustad was ecstatic on Wednesday.

“I believe this is historic,” he said. “I don't believe there’s ever been a time where there’s been four official major poltical parties in British Columbia."

The two MLAs will bring funding for the Conservative Party of BC, which, as an official party, will now have certain privileges, including access to committees and a daily question during question period.

Political scientist Hamish Telford says this will provide the party with much more exposure.

“I think now it guarantees John Rustad a spot in the election TV debate during the next election, next year, so he can really present his message, make his pitch to British Columbians, generally,” said Telford, a professor at the University of the Fraser Valley.

Wednesday was clearly a bouyant day for the Conservatives, already riding the success of a recent second place finish in the Langford-Juan de Fuca byelection and potentially benefiting from a surge in popularity of the federal Conservatives.

“Pierre Poillevre leading the federal Conservative Party seems to be lifitng all conservative boats,” observed Telford.

Meanwhile, BC United faces the spectre of losing two MLAs in a year and trailing the provincial Conservatives in a recent poll by Mainstreet Research.

BC United Leader Kevin Falcon said he expressed his disappointment about Banman’s decision to his former MLA, in a phone call.

“I reminded Bruce that the people that voted for him, that raised money for him, that worked hard for him — he’s going to have to explain that to them," Falcon said. "Candidly, Bruce has been an ongoing management problem.”

All of these fireworks erupting as the next provincial election looms just over a year away, and as MLAs prepare for the fall session of the legislature that begins in two weeks.  

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