Attempting to break a party's long political slump, former Conservative MP John Cummins rallied a small crowd Tuesday night in Courtenay with a message of revitalization and optimism for what he hopes will form the next provincial government — the B.C. Conservative Party.
Cummins continued his three-month tour of the province, stopping in Courtenay at the lower Native Sons Hall to spread his message about listening to the voters, governmental mistakes, and how he hopes to lead the party to power in the next provincial election.
"People have been asking me what is it that you have to offer that sets you apart and makes you distinct and why should I vote for you?" asked Cummins in front of about 25 people.
"Preston Manning always reminded us that we had an obligation to represent and put the constituents first, ahead of the party. It's the constituents that elected you, they were going to send you to Ottawa and they were the people you had to listen most to, and that stayed with me throughout my entire political career," said the former federal politician who represented the riding of Delta-Richmond East.
Cummins emphasized the importance of listening to the constituents' wishes, adding the party will be united under the Conservative banner, but members will be responsible to the electors.
"That's what's going to set us apart from the other (parties)," he noted.
"We want MLAs that are going to stand up, speak out and give their opinion on the direction that the government is going to take. We need to get that sort of consensus. That to me is healthy democracy ... working to make the province a better place. That to me is the first priority, the first principal of this party."
Cummins identified four key issues which he said are of big concern to British Columbians: fiscal management, rising health care costs, justice issues and treaties.
He questioned the Liberals' fiscal management, specifically asking why the HST was implemented, and if the public rejects the tax during a referendum, how the current government will pay back the $1.6 billion in federal government money.
On health care, Cummins asked how the current government plans to pay for the biggest bill in the province.
"There's a huge bureaucratic overburden that really sucks the money out of the health care system," he added.
Cummins said although justice issues are mostly a federal responsibility, there's been a significant drop in the commitment to providing adequate policing services in this province.
Insisting the provincial government must respect any municipal government which results from treaty negotiations, Cummins added "at the end of the day, all Canadians are equal."
Brushing off the possibility of vote-splitting between the Conservative and Liberal parties, Cummins noted his confidence on the party's ability to gain power.
"The Liberals have outlived their lifespan in this province. We are a player, we will be fielding candidates in every riding for the next provincial election and I think very clearly we can win," he said.
"Forty-eight per cent of British Columbians didn't bother to vote in the last provincial election. Why did they stay home? It's as simple as not liking the choices. I am very confident that we are going to do very well in this next provincial election, and I honestly do think we have a very good chance of forming the next government of British Columbia ... it's not beyond the realm of possibility, that is not a pipe dream. We are going to do very well."
Cummins is the only candidate so far running for leader of the party, with a formal party vote scheduled for May 28.