Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Ex-BC Conservative MLA John van Dongen calls BC Liberal MLAs in new search for NDP alternative

Leaderless and now ex-BC Conservative MLA John van Dongen Seeks New Allies while Leader John Cummins clears the deck and moves on
John Cummins speaks, Randy White listens at October 2010 BC Conservatives' AGM - Bill Tieleman photos

Lawyer Roger McConchie with John van Dongen outside BC Supreme Court Basi-Virk hearing - September 2012
After quitting BC Conservatives and BC Liberals, van Dongen talking to BC Liberal MLAs, says considering a 'range of different options' for non-NDP alternative

Bill Tieleman’s 24 hours/The Tyee column
Tuesday September 25, 2012
By Bill Tieleman
"Loyalty is a fine quality, but in excess it fills political graveyards."
- Neil Kinnock, ex-British Labour Party leader
The wild political shootout at the B.C. Conservative Party corral last weekend didn’t produce any fatalities, but it may have shaped the province's political future by laying the groundwork for yet another party -- or a B.C. Liberal leadership revolt.
On Friday, John Martin, the B.C. Conservatives' Chilliwack-Hope byelection candidate who came third in March, surprisingly joined the B.C. Liberal Party he had trashed mercilessly just months before.
On Saturday, B.C. Conservative leader John Cummins got through an unwanted leadership review vote demanded by dissidents unhappy with his style, winning 71.4 per cent of membership ballots.
Those who loudly complained about Cummins in the media, led by party vice-president Ben Besler, were all purged in their bids to sit on the executive.
The results led the party's only MLA, John van Dongen, to bolt for the doors, leaving the B.C. Conservatives again with no presence in the B.C. Legislature. The veteran MLA and ex-solicitor-general had quit the B.C. Liberals to join forces with Cummins in March, creating a political earthquake for Premier Christy Clark.
But beneath the drama, potentially yet more significant developments were taking place.
Sources in the B.C. Conservative Party told 24 hours Sunday they believed van Dongen planned to replace Cummins as leader and then approach the B.C. Liberals with a plan to ditch Christy Clark and bring the two parties together under van Dongen.
They alleged van Dongen has been in communication with B.C. Liberal MLAs Donna Barnett (Cariboo-Chilcotin) and Moira Stilwell (Vancouver-Langara).
Courting Liberals?
In an interview Sunday night van Dongen didn't confirm or deny holding discussions with the B.C. Liberal MLAs, but did reject B.C. Conservative claims of forming another party.
"I'm not going to disclose individual private conversations," van Dongen said. "I'd love to tell you about conversations I've had with Liberal MLAs, but I'm not going to."
But van Dongen says some of the allegations are way off.
"The Cummins group is convinced I'm going to start a third party -- that's news to me," van Dongen says.
The Abbotsford-South MLA, who intends to sit as an independent, says he does want to find an alternative to the current opposition facing the surging New Democrats under leader Adrian Dix, saying neither Clark nor Cummins can win.
And he fired both barrels at his recent former leader, veteran Conservative and Reform Party Member of Parliament Cummins.
"Cummins doesn't care that 30 per cent of his party is unhappy with him and he doesn't even make them an overture in his speech," van Dongen said.
"People like Cummins and all the people of his vintage -- Randy White, Darrell Stinson, Jim Hart [former Reform Party MPs now advising the B.C. Conservatives] -- none of them have ever been in government," van Dongen said. "It's easy to criticize in opposition, but it's not like being in government."
"This guy [Cummins] never even made it to parliamentary secretary in the Conservative federal government," van Dongen added.
For his part, Cummins laid into van Dongen too.
"One day he was satisfied, the next day he wasn't, now he's out of there," Cummins told Sean Leslie on CKNW radio Sunday.
"Now he told the news yesterday that he was going to the next Liberal convention in Whistler, but he wasn't going to join the party as long as Premier Clark was leading it -- if you can figure that out, go right ahead -- I can't," Cummins said.
But van Dongen said in an interview that he "might possibly" go to the B.C. Liberal convention's so-called "Free Enterprise Friday" that is open to non-members looking for an anti-NDP alternative.
Conversely, van Dongen confirmed that he would not re-join the B.C. Liberals so long as the party is led by Clark.
Party-building 'not for faint of heart': Cummins
Where will van Dongen end up?
"I'm open to a range of different options," he told me. "I'm at peace with my decision." And in an interview with CKNW's Sean Leslie on Saturday van Dongen said:
"I will work with anyone who wants to bring their resources and their capacity and their work ethic to the table to build a credible option for British Columbians. They are rejecting Christy Clark's leadership and they are rejecting John Cummins' leadership."
The veteran MLA left the B.C. Liberals in part over the B.C. Legislature Raid case scandal when he learned his government had paid the $6-million legal defence fees of former government aides Dave Basi and Bob Virk despite their guilty pleas for giving confidential information to lobbyists for a bidder in the $1-billion privatization of B.C. Rail.
Van Dongen says he will continue to work on digging up more information on that case and attending the final arguments in early December in an application brought by Auditor-General John Doyle to obtain government documents connected to Basi and Virk's legal billings and those of others with indemnifications for legal fees. Van Dongen was granted intervener status in the case.
But for Cummins, van Dongen and the dissidents are simply irritation removed from his road to the May 2013 provincial election.
The B.C. Conservatives held a training school Friday for 23 potential candidates, and notwithstanding their public bloodletting are recruiting both more candidates and corporate funding. A statement from Cummins on the weekend talks about his speech on changing the legislative calendar while ignoring the battle royale that took place.
When asked, Cummins acknowledges the challenges in a matter of fact way.
"Building a new party is not for the faint of heart. That's the bottom line here. It's unfortunate when these sorts of things happen, but that's life in the political realm," he told CKNW Sunday.
What's most important to Cummins now is that he has clear control over the B.C. Conservatives and eight months to build a centre-right alternative to the beleaguered B.C. Liberals, who lost Clark's chief of staff Ken Boessenkool Monday morning in a surprise resignation over an "inappropriate personal incident of concern."
Despite the infighting, the Conservatives polled 19 per cent this month and the B.C. Liberals just 25 per cent in an Angus Reid survey this month -- and those are the numbers Cummins cares about most.



jsomm said...

We have seen political family feuds in the past that were very ugly indeed. We don't have to scroll back too far in history to see the blood-letting over the leadership of Carol James.However, Carol , to her credit , a bright woman and a class act, stepped down and a new leader was chosen. She stayed on to support Adrian. Many thought the NDP had snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, but they bounced back. The test for Cummins will be if the dissidents give up or continue to snap at his heels.
As for Mr van Dongen, I have to admire his tenacity over BC Rail and wish him well!

Anonymous said...

John Cummins may have won the leadership review (in another media source, he insisted the leadership review had nothing to do with him), but the Conervatives have lost much in terms of credibility. Contrast that with the NDP and Carole James. Despite being stabbed, she soldiered on and supported Adrian.

John Van Dongen should be much more mileage than just BC Rail. he should have been made Deputy Leader and be the half of a tag team that could have gone out and solidified the right of centre vote.

But he and Cummins both failed on that one.

Only a fool would support Van Dongen solely on the basis of his seeking intervenor status with BC Rail. Once that court hearing is over, what's next for him?

Not much.

As for the BC Conservatives, they've lost alot of ground that simply won't be made up.

An alternative to an already narrowed choices for right of centre? All that would do is further split the vote and make the NDP being government that much easier.

Not exactly a smart move.

DPL said...

I'm wondering after watching Van Dongen changing parties so quickly had something else planned. The guy has put up his own money to try to get a decent answer about the $6 million dollar aides.So he has staying power at least on that file. As Bill reminds us of the twists and turns it's starting to sound like a soap opera. If all else fails he can take his pension and walk away from politics

Grant G said...

Mr T...In my opinion John Von Dongen was himself a "serial leaker"..

Leaking BC Liberal caucus information to a blogger, and leaking BC Conservative inside business to a blogger.

Yet Ding Dong has the balls to cuss out Christy Clark(and I ain`t no Christy fan)and accuse her of being a "serial leaker"

Don`t you see the irony.

I do believe that Saint Von Dongen was also reprimanded when he was a Minister for leaking information about an upcoming inspection to the fish farmers, need more....How many excessive speeding tickets did speedy Von Dongen have?..Many, that is indeed endangering the public at large..

And what of Mizz Whacker, the highest paid constituency assistant in the Province, illegal no, immoral, maybe, appearance does matter..

Von Dongen is no saint, and the only one who defending Ding Dong is one blogger now not getting any leaks and his tribe of wayward puppies.

Good Day...Oh..

And Good Post

e.a.f. said...

I can only conclude the conservative leaders don't really want to gain seat in the legislature, they just want to play at politics to keep themselves amuzed in their retirement yrs & still feel important.

JVD leaving the conservatives didn't really hurt them because there was nothing to damage. JVD himself is no angel. He hs made mistakes as a politician. On the other hand he is trying to get at something a lot of us would like to know about. No one politiician is perfect. they all come with luggage. They all have agendas. It is up to the voters to decide who will do us the least damage & maybe even help the voters to a better life in this province.

Anonymous said...

Yes, yes, we know there are people out there who want a new party, or combine this one with that one (or they're open to whatever ideas), anything but to have an NDP government for 4 or more years. . .

Since certain parties are quickly sinking in the polls/popularity, you can read and hear this in every which way to Sunday that this is the BC Liberals and their friends goal, and those with the money. None of them can go a sentence without bringing up the Free Enterprise party / or some type of alternative Free Enterprise party, if you don't vote for the Liberals. Oh yeah, right, an alternative Free Enterprise party, MADE UP OF WHAT PEOPLE/WHAT LEADER, if I may ask ?? ?? I'm SURE they've got that all worked out. We'd soon be back to square one that we're seeing right now.

You know, it's just the arrogance (too many years in power) of themselves and their corporate buddies, you can tell they're scared sh--less.

You and I, all of us, we've been around, we've seen the way they've governed (and maybe not all bad), but we know what they've done; so now, around the time they see that everything is collapsing and going south around them, they treat us as if we have no brains, or like we're little children/young teens that have no idea what we're doing/what we're thinking or what will happen/what we're getting into if we elect an NDP majority gov't.

Well, maybe, regarding the BC Liberal party, if you had truly governed coming more from the middle, meaning yes, absolutely support business/corporations, etc but also been generous (or at least fair and reasonable) to those less fortunate, raised the minimum wage years ago, and not brought in that revolting training wage, and not cut the very important and even specialized cleaning staff in hospitals, not come from a position of declared world war with teachers and unions, allowed for fair and reasonable increases in pay for teachers, union employees, especially when many of them have helped during when times they said were tough, and helped the gov't actually in a way by agreeing not to take a wage increase .. I mean especially since the Liberals have been far more fair and reasonable (over the top more like it) with the private sector and their friends in many cases, CEO severances, and all that, plus giving themselves huge increases in their own salaries, and for months now, scandal after scandal yourselves, then maybe you wouldn't be seeing the mass abandonment and exodus you are now.

So .. they don't need to come off all so self-righteous, panicky and fearful, patting us on the heads like children, now now, mommy and daddy knows what's best, when you are older you will understand, but for now trust us, we must have a Free Enterprise party, regardless of how they've been towards us.

Really, I'd be very cautious about some other form of Free Enterprise or combined coalition? .. just who would be in it, and who would be the one in charge, and who would be running that person?

Anonymous said...

Doesn't matter the NDP is arriving as government.

And guess what kids? They aren't going to be able to deliver everything the whiny left wants.

There's going to be disappointments and big ones.

Even Susan Lambert of the BCTF is not going to get what she wants, and neither will Smilin' Jim Sinclair of the BC Fed.

It will be interesting to see how the NDP handles its own kind.

Anonymous said...

There are several different styles of leadership. Cummins and Van Dongen come from the same school: absolutely no compromises, stubbornly sticking to their view of the world and follow or f@ck off.

That leadership style can be quite effective in the short run. Many in the public like uncompromising leaders with strong "principles". What isn't so pleasant is trying to work with them inside a political party.

Both Cummins and van Dongen are, at their cores, lone wolfs. And that isn't a personality type that can build an enduring team.

Anonymous said...

The NDP has had many within its party who are also uncomprimising and stick to what the union leaders tell them.

That's following not leading.

There's one three things a person can do in politics.

Lead, follow or get out of the way.

Anonymous said...

Quoting Anonymous above:

"Both Cummins and van Dongen are, at their cores, lone wolfs. And that isn't a personality type that can build an enduring team."

I would add Stephen Harper and Gordon Campbell to that list. The same types basically - only they got in (the ones you mentioned will likely go a drift). And the people below them, Harper/Campbell) MP's, MLA's what have you, they'd better follow or face severe consequences .. and don't they know it?

Anonymous said...

There appears to possibly be a 4th alternative tat may have a chance against NDP and GOD .

I do hope it takes flight.