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BREAKING: B.C. United says B.C. Conservatives walked away from talks

B.C. United Leader Kevin Falcon said his party had proposed a generous “non-competition framework”
B.C. United Leader Kevin Falcon said Conservative Party of B.C. John Rustad walked away from what Falcon called a “generous” non-competition framework to prevent the B.C. NDP from forming government after this fall’s provincial election. (Black Press Media file photo)

B.C. United Leader Kevin Falcon said Friday (May 24) he has a “clear conscience” after confirming that talks about a proposed “non-competition framework” with the Conservative Party of B.C. under John Rustad had ended after two meetings.

Falcon said Rustad rejected the proposal following talks on May 2 and May 22.

“I have to tell you today that John Rustad ultimately made the decision that that’s not something that he wants to proceed with and he is going to put his personal ambitions, as he views them, above the best interests of the province,” Falcon said. “While I may disagree with his decision, I respect the fact that the decision has been made and we are going to go forward.”

Rustad said in statement that it was Falcon, who would do “absolutely anything for power” in dismissing the offer.

“Kevin Falcon says publicly that he wants to put his ego aside, but privately, any discussions or ‘offers’ have been completely unserious and dishonest,” Rustad said.

Rustad also reiterated his promise that the Conservatives would run candidates in 93 ridings in framing the election as a choice between his party and the B.C. NDP under Premier David Eby.

He later said in an interview that the discussions were “unofficial” while calling the proposed non-competition framework “non-workable” and “non-starter” because it would have led to another NDP government.

“However, we are interested and we are still interested in having conversations with anybody that wants to work under the Conservative banner who wants to put an end to (Premier) David Eby’s radical government here in British Columbia,” he said.

This exchange comes just days after a poll had shown the Conservatives at 32 per cent with B.C United tied at 12 per cent with the B.C. Greens.

The non-competition framework proposed by B.C. United would have fallen short of a merger, but it would have protected the parties’ respective incumbents — 15 for B.C. United, two for the Conservatives — from candidates from the other party. B.C. Conservatives would have run 47 candidates and B.C. United would have run 46 candidates, because B.C. United has more incumbents to protect.

The parties would have divided up the seats in a draft format, whereby the provincial Conservatives could have made three choices for each one that BC United had made until each party had picked the same number of ridings, including ridings with incumbents. From that point, the parties would have alternated choices until reaching the agreed-upon number seats for each party.

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The two parties would have been responsible for their own campaigns and fundraising, but would not have attacked each other during the campaign.

The agreement also included provisions for a potential coalition government after the election. If their combined total seats had exceeded the seats of the B.C. NDP, the parties would have agreed to form a coalition government. The leader of the party with the most seats would have been become Premier, while the leader of the party with the fewer seats would have become deputy premier and held a senior cabinet posts. Cabinet seats would have been allocated relative to the number of seats held by each party.

“We put forward a very, I think, generous and reasonable potential framework for how we could have (had) a sort of non-compete agreement and I can look people in the eye and say, ‘we gave it our best shot,’ and it was legitimate,” Falcon said.

Falcon, however, explicitly refused to rule out a coalition government after the election. He warned against speculation at this stage, but added that he would “always do the right thing” for the free-enterprise system in B.C.

“This is British Columbia, folks,” he said. “A lot can change in a week and a lot can change in five months…so seat-belt yourself in and wait to see what happens,” he said. “But I want you to know that I trust British Columbians and British Columbians are going to look very carefully.”

Falcon later acknowledged some commonalities with Conservatives on economic issues. “But I make no apology for the fact that they have very problematic candidates…and in the coming months, it’s going to be apparent.”

Falcon said his party will now focus on the campaign ahead.

“I don’t want to say that the gloves are off (against the Conservatives), but we are going to be very open about the fact that they have got some candidates that are extremely problematic and that most British Columbians would say that is far too extreme.”

Rustad said B.C United would be “lucky to elect anybody” when asked about a possible coalition after the election based on current polls. “However, the objective of the Conservative Party of (B.C.) is to prevent David Eby and his radical policies from governing in (B.C.),” he said. “If there is an opportunity to take them down, I would do everything I can to take them down as quickly as possible.”

When asked about Falcon’s comments about the Conservatives having “problematic” candidates, Rustad said the party has a vetting process.

“If Kevin Falcon has something to bring forward, I suggest that he do just that,” Rustad said. “If we missed something, that is something we have to look at and address. But…I’m proud of the team we have put together.”

Reactions to the end of talks between the two parties has varied according to their respective interests.

“Yesterday we announced that over 600 new affordable homes are coming to metro Van,” B.C.’s Housing Minister and B.C. NDP House Leader Ravi Kahlon wrote on X. “Today these guys are squabbling over who killed their backroom deal. (B.C.) can’t afford the nonsense these guys would bring in.”

Wolf Depner

About the Author: Wolf Depner

I joined the national team with Black Press Media in 2023 from the Peninsula News Review, where I had reported on Vancouver Island's Saanich Peninsula since 2019.
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