FORSETH – ‘I am seriously considering seeking leadership of the party’

MLA John Rustad. (Image: BC Hansard)

MENTION THE BC CONSERVATIVES and you’ll get derision and mockery from some … others will say they are a breath of fresh air  … and still others will go, “The BC Who?”

But ask current Conservative Party of BC President, Ryan Warawa, about the party and he’ll say that “The seeds of party renewal — that were planted when I was elected President in 2017 and Trevor Bolin was elected Leader in 2019 — have grown into a harvest.”

In addition to being Party President, Ryan ran as a Conservative candidate in Langley East, in the 2020 election provincial election. When I spoke with him this past Friday Warawa indicated that he is interested in running for the Conservatives in the new Langley – Aldergrove riding.  “By no longer serving as Party President, it will allow me to focus my attention on that riding leading up to the next provincial election”, he said to me.

Of course, the reason I contacted Ryan was due to Friday’s announcement that Party Leader Trevor Bolinwould be stepping down, triggering a leadership race, the date and details of which are yet to be announced; for now, however, Bolin will be assuming the role of Interim Party leader.

In an email to members Bolin stated, “Today marks three years and ten months since I was fortunate enough to be named the leader of BC’s Conservatives. In political life, that’s a provincial election, two by-elections, a municipal election, three AGMs, double the membership, and yesterday ago.”

He continued, “A lot of our lives have changed in the last few years, and with the loss of my parents, I have decided my family needs to come first at this time.”

And to me, personally, he commented, “This is far from goodbye, it’s simply, I’ll see you soon.”  To that end, he made sure that party members were aware that he would be once again running for the Conservatives, under the new party leader, in the Peace River North riding in next years provincial election.

When asked about the upcoming leadership race Warawa told me, “The Conservative Party of BC’s upcoming leadership race will provide an opportunity for an exchange of ideas between multiple credible candidates, and with that, I expect the Conservative tent to grow.  The party’s grassroots members will have the opportunity to elect the person who will lead our full slate of candidates into the next election: with hopefully that Leader serving as Premier someday.”

Which brings a third name into this blog post, and that of course is John Rustad who was first elected as a BC Liberal to the BC Legislature in 2005, and who represents the riding of Nechako Lakes.

Just weeks ago, after siting as an Independent for six months, Rustad became the first MLA to represent the Conservatives, in Victoria, since 2012 when John Van Dongen crossed the floor. 

And of course, with Rustad now sitting as a Conservative MLA (and yes I know the party doesn’t have ‘official’ status in the Legislature) speculation will begin as to whether or not he will take up the challenge of becoming the party’s next leader.

He said to me, “It is still early days as I’ve been a Conservative Party member for just over two weeks.”

And during those two weeks, and in the coming weeks ahead, I asked?

In the legislature I’ve raised the issue of dropping the vaccine mandates and hiring back BC’s healthcare heroes. Our healthcare system is in a crisis and we need every professional we can find to help alleviate the pressures. I’ve also raised the awareness that almost six people a day die waiting for diagnostic services or surgeries in BC. This is completely unacceptable, yet nobody is talking about it. Our healthcare system is broken and its time we had an honest conversation about building a new model. The NDP argue that the system is more important than patient’s suffering.

 This is just wrong on so many levels and it’s a prime example of why change is needed. The BC Liberals refuse to even discuss this issue. Only the Conservative Party can bring an open discussion about the future of BC’s healthcare system.

 In addition, I’ve raised the issue of bringing an end to the subsidies for electric vehicles and E-bikes as well as the privilege given to EV drivers to use HOV lanes. Cobalt is a critical element in modern batteries. Three quarters of the worlds supply comes from the Congo where child labour working for a dollar or two a day in slave like conditions is the normal. BC taxpayers should not be subsidizing products that include cobalt extracted under these conditions.

 Finally, I am working with healthcare providers across the province to oppose Bill 36. We have already collected 15,000 signatures on a petition and more keep coming in every day. This bill dramatically changes how our healthcare professionals are governed giving dramatic control to the government among other issues. We need to keep pushing back on this bill as it will only lead to more healthcare providers decided to leave BC for more friendly jurisdictions.”

But again, specifically, to his thoughts of running?

Yes, I am seriously considering seeking the leadership of the party”, Rustad told me.

He continued, “The party is designing the rules and requirements for a leadership race. I’m having discussions with my family as I know what taking on the leadership would mean in terms of the time commitment and the years of service required. I do not take this issue lightly.

 The province needs a new coalition party to fight for BC. My family comes first so I want to make sure I can commit to building this.”

Having formerly had a number of roles (over a decade from 2010 – 2020), within the provincial Conservative party, I know the challenges the party has had to break out across the province, and to have relevance in areas like Metro-Vancouver, Victoria, and elsewhere. I asked how the party could change that?

Rustad stated, “The old Social Credit party boasted in 1968 that it had 85,000 members. That was at a time when BC’s population was less than half of what it is today. Members were respected and saw value in being part of the party.

This is what BC needs again. They need a party that respects members. A party that is built by the grassroots. A party that will not forget who elected them at all levels and who fights for all British Columbians.

 There are no divisions between one region of the province to another … except the ones the politicians of the day want to create.

Everyone wants to be able to provide for their families. 

Everyone wants to have a good job and to be able to afford a satisfying quality of life. 

Everyone wants to have government services when they need them. 

And everyone expects the government to be accountable, transparent and to create an environment of opportunity. 

That is what I hope to see in the Conservative Party of BC.

The Conservative Party of BC executive has named Vancouver Lawyer Aisha Estey to Chair the newly formed Leadership Elections Organizing Committee (LEOC), that will oversee the process for a leadership race. The rules and procedures of the leadership race will be announced in the coming weeks.

According to Bolin, he will have a role to play as details come together over the coming days. “The party has asked that I assist with the leadership race, and do what I can alongside the executive to further enhance the leadership race. In that, I will continue to work towards our shared vision and goals of 2024.”

Let’s give the final word to the Conservative Party of BC’s newest MLA, and ‘possible’ leadership candidate, John Rustad.

When Kevin Falcon kicked me out of the party in August of 2022, for speaking out about an important issue for my riding, I had to decide what my future would be.

 Ultimately, I came to the same conclusion I did back in the year 2000 when I first got heavily involved in politics.

 I didn’t like the way the province was going back then so I had three choices. Move, live with it or try to change it. I love BC and didn’t want to move. Living with it was just not in my nature. So that is when I decided to get involved and try to change things. Fast forward to this fall and I had the same choices.

 I decided to try and change it, which is when I seriously looked at the Conservative Party of BC and how it could become the vehicle for creating a new coalition party in BC. A party that puts people at the centre of its priorities and celebrates MLAs whose primary focus is to represent their riding.

 There is a lot of work to be done to build a grassroots movement.”

Alan Forseth is a Kamloops resident. For 40 years he has been active, in a number of capacities, in local, provincial and federal politics, including running as a candidate for the BC Reform Party in the 1996 provincial election. He recently was involved in the BC Liberal leadership campaign.

About Mel Rothenburger (9489 Articles) is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

1 Comment on FORSETH – ‘I am seriously considering seeking leadership of the party’

  1. A party built by the “grassroots”? You mean the ones who only believe science when it is convenient to them? Or the ones believing in the role of government only when it is convenient to them?
    Dear AF, I do avidly read your diatribes as well as the diatribes of certain social media influencers like Aaron Gunn. I also do read the articles and op-pieces of higher profile scribblers on various publications. I read for signs of hope. Hope that the “conservatives” get their “ducks in a row” and come up with well-thought out ideas and comprehensive strategies. So you know I am totally disenchanted with the so-called left.
    Yours truly

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