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(Published in the Abbotsford News week of Sept. 20, 2004)


BC Alternative = Crash and Burn



John Pifer


Every time something bizarre occurs in the wacky world of politics in British Columbia, the voters can only shake their heads in disbelief and mutter: “Only in BC, eh?”


Now, in a province that has produced Wild Bill Vander Zalm and the power-tripping Glen Clark as Premiers, complete with their accompanying scandals and subsequent court cases, the residents are again vigorously shaking their heads over the kooky BC Alternative adventure that lasted all of a month.


The plan for the formation of a Conservative Party of BC, bringing together the long-struggling Unity Party and the moribund BC Conservatives imploded at the weekend, when just 13 “true” Conservatives and the executive of that puny organization stabbed the plan in the heart.


The proposed merger, to offer an alternative for voters to the Liberals under Premier Gordon Campbell and the socialist, Big-Union-run hordes of the New Democratic Party fizzled out when the Conservatives voted 24 to 13 in favour of the plan. Only in BC would that spell defeat, as the unknown Conservative president Frank Tofin refused to accept the vote, and declared the agreement to merge with Unity as invalid. At that point, many delegates got up and left the convention in disgust.


A new board of directors was elected, and its new president, one Bill Smith, promised to support the two parties’ agreement-in-principle. However, immediately after his election, Mr. Smith refused to allow a motion by members of the new board to accept the democratic will of the majority of members to forge ahead with the AIP.


That prompted Unity leader Chris Delaney to fall on his rusty sword, resigning his post. Mr. Delaney said he had staked his tenuous credibility and the future of his party on the proposed merger, and the cockeyed decision of the Conservative board left no room to pull the parties together in time for a planned BC Alternative conference at the end of the month.


In keeping with the bizarre nature of politics on the Wet Coast, and just to add to the intrigue and/or stupidity of this whole affair, the question of skullduggery and conspiracy on the part of the Liberals was raised, too. Blake MacKenzie, a member of the BC Conservatives and a key proponent of the merger, accused the Grits of foul play. "This whole thing stinks to high heaven. How can one or two people overrule the democratic will of the members of a political party? It is insane. Who are these people that came in here and did everything they could to scuttle this? What possible motivation could they have for such a thing? I am personally disappointed and disgusted” he whined.


There is no doubt that the Liberals, nefariously involved or not, are delighted with the Conservative collapse thanks to the stubborn 13. The last thing they want is to lose votes to another right-of-centre faction, when their blunders and term in office have actually – amazingly - given the New Democrats some hope of overcoming the overwhelming disparity in seats and forming government again. Mr. Campbell and Co. appear to be prepared to lose as many as 30 of their current 74 seats, which still would leave them with a majority in the 79-seat Legislature.


Meanwhile, it’s back to the drawing board for Mr. Delaney and friends; and with the provincial election due in May, time is running out for them to do anything other than throw in the chalk for that board.


Only in BC, eh?



Veteran B.C. journalist/broadcaster John Pifer may be reached at






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