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Baldrey: The B.C. Conservative Party and its 'potential weaknesses'

Why columnist Keith Baldrey believes other B.C. political parties may be quick to jump and exploit on Conservative stances from its current representatives.
Nechako Lakes MLA and B.C. Conservative Party leader John Rustad. | Kyle Balzer, Glacier Media

The B.C. Conservative Party is on a bit of a roll in some polls these days, but a comment made by one of its MLAs in the legislature last week was a reminder the party has some potential weaknesses their political opponents are only too happy to exploit.

Abbotsford South MLA Bruce Banman delivered a member’s statement on Mother’s Day last Thursday morning, May 9, and during it, he said motherhood begins “from the moment of conception,” the kind of comment favoured by those who oppose abortion.

The other three parties were quick to jump on his comment, arguing it was a “dog whistle” aimed at anti-abortion forces. Although Banman later told PostMedia News that he supports a woman’s right to choose, his comment on the legislature floor reverberated through B.C.’s political arena.

Party leader John Rustad posted on social media that if his party wins the election, he “will not reopen the abortion debate.” But he left unclear what his personal position on abortion is, leading to Premier David Eby jumping into the fray.

He retweeted Rustad’s post on X, with the comment: “It’s 2024. Someone who wants to be premier of B.C. should be able to say they’re pro-choice.”

B.C. United leader Kevin Falcon also offered his comment, telling reporters he and his party are firmly pro-choice and have been for years. “Women have the right to choose,” he said.

Banman’s comments in the legislature came on the same day dozens of anti-abortion protestors gathered on the legislature front lawn for an annual rally.

The whole brouhaha had the B.C. Conservatives clearly on the defensive and will likely extend to other social conservative issues.

While the party has tried to make issues like getting rid of the carbon tax and decriminalization a focal point of its attacks on the government, it also embraces more fringe issues that are outside the mainstream voter orbit.

For example, Rustad and Banman have used up a lot of oxygen attacking the SOGI initiative in schools and trans athletes as well.

At a time when 90 per cent of the population have been vaccinated against COVID-19, the party trots out from time to time their demand that unvaccinated health care workers who turned their back on science should be re-employed in the health care system.  

Although B.C. had among the best outcomes in the country when it came to dealing with COVID-19, Banman has demanded that the person responsible for the province’s response, Dr. Bonnie Henry, be fired from her post.

The B.C. Conservatives have already fired two of its candidates for their anti-vaccination views, and you can be sure the political staff for both the B.C. United Party and the NDP are busy combing through the past of other Conservative candidates, as the party doesn’t seem to have much of a candidate vetting process.

Eby has already signaled he considers the B.C. Conservative Party the NDP’s chief political opponent. Whether that will remain the case when the election campaign begins in the fall is unclear.

However, if the B.C. Conservatives get mired in the minefield of “social” conservatism rather than embracing the safer and more vote-rich turf of “progressive” conservatism the big winner from that scenario will likely be the B.C. United Party.

Keith Baldrey is chief political reporter for Global BC.