Gay rights champion Elenore Sturko shocks BC United by defecting to Conservatives | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

Would you like to subscribe to our newsletter?

Current Conditions Mainly Sunny  20.7°C

Vernon News

Gay rights champion Elenore Sturko shocks BC United by defecting to Conservatives

Former BC United MLA Elenore Sturko has left the party and joined the BC Conservatives. Sturko, right, elected last month in the Surrey South byelection, is sworn in by clerk Kate Ryan-Lord at the legislature in Victoria, Monday, Oct. 3, 2022.
Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Dirk Meissner

VICTORIA - Nine months ago, Elenore Sturko told BC Conservative Leader John Rustad on social media that he needed to "make an unequivocal apology" for calling homosexuality a "lifestyle" and having "doubled down in his ignorance."

On Monday, Sturko stood beside Rustad as the leader of her new party, after she defected from the BC United, delivering another blow to the official Opposition just months before a provincial election.

Her move comes after Lorne Doerkson, the former BC United caucus chair, also jumped from BC United on Friday, and Sturko now brings the number of Conservative members in the legislature to four.

Sturko said Monday she had changed her mind about Rustad's stance on sexual orientation and gender identity curriculum in schools, that once saw her give Premier David Eby a standing ovation in the legislature when he told Rustad he should be ashamed of himself for focusing on it.

Sturko said in an interview she now believes the curriculum known as SOGI 123 has eroded parental trust in public education.

"What we've actually seen is that SOGI has become divisive," Sturko said in an interview. "Whether it's from perception, I think that the name, even calling it SOGI, I'm not sure that we would be able to win back the support of parents and families.

"Whether it's those real concerns or whether it's a perception, we need to finally end this divisiveness and make sure that we allow people to put this to bed and get kids back to feeling safe in their classrooms."

The move by Sturko — a former RCMP officer who is gay and has been a vocal defender of LGBTQ rights and gender identity education in schools — surprised many, including BC United Leader Kevin Falcon.

He said on Monday he felt a personal sense of betrayal, given that he "really went out on a limb" to appoint Sturko as his party's candidate in the 2022 byelection in Surrey South.

Falcon said he raised money for her and went door knocking on Sturko's behalf.

"She has used very colourful language in our caucus and with myself about her views on the BC Conservatives, and it is not flattering," he said. "How she can go from that, a position she held as recently as within the last two weeks, to suddenly joining them? I think that's a real challenge that she'll have to explain ... and defend that to her constituents."

BC United spokesman Adam Wilson said that Sturko's decision "to run for a party that is so out of line with her values and priorities in a new riding is shocking."

"(It) shows she cares more about her pension than her principles," Wilson said in a written statement.

The BC Conservatives and BC United had been in discussions about avoiding vote splitting between the two right-of-centre parties that could benefit the ruling NDP in the October election.

But the Conservatives rejected a proposal last month from the BC United to forge a "non-competition" agreement, with Rustad and BC United Leader Kevin Falcon blaming each other for the talks' collapse.

Falcon said BC United is not considering re-opening talks with the Conservatives in light of Sturko's defection.

Sturko said the decision to switch parties was a difficult one. She currently represents Surrey South but will run in Surrey-Cloverdale, a riding now held by the NDP.

"I think this is the right decision to make," Sturko said. "And I have the best interest of British Columbians in mind when I'm doing this."

Sturko said she had been talking to Falcon since December about working with the Conservatives to defeat the NDP.

"Kevin has heard the same thing, that over and over voters are asking for the people on the right to get together," she said. "Kevin failed to be able to make that happen with the two parties."

She said she would "never abandon" LGBTQ causes but there was "room for everybody" in a "big-tent" Conservative Party of BC.

Falcon said the voters he has spoken with feel differently about the BC Conservatives, and he's confident people will turn toward the "mainstream" BC United as they learn more about the parties.

"When the election comes around, I guarantee you that they will not go for extreme," Falcon said. "They go for mainstream, and we (have) mainstream, common-sense policies that British Columbian's can get behind."

Rustad said in a statement that Sturko would be a terrific addition to the Conservative team, and a practical example of the grassroots coalition he said was growing across the province.

“Elenore’s decision to join us reinforces that we are building a big tent, with room for everyone who wants to defeat the NDP and elect a common-sense government that respects taxpayers' hard earned wages,” Rustad said.

He said anyone interested in working with his party should contact him.

Sturko said Monday the goal is to defeat the NDP and she can "only ignore polls for so long" in acknowledging the Conservatives as "the largest grassroots movement" seen in British Columbia.

"If you are LGBT or not LGBT, … If you are on board with changing direction from the NDP and changing what we're doing so that we can repair these things that are impacting all British Columbians right now, every day, then please join us," she said.

"There are things that I won't agree with every single person in my new party, and I certainly didn't agree with every single person in the party I'm leaving."

Political science associate Prof. Hamish Telford, at the University of the Fraser Valley, said Sturko joining the Conservatives was especially damaging to BC United because she was "personally recruited" by Falcon "to be a star candidate."

Telford said the move is surprising because Sturko's values "don't seem fully aligned" with the BC Conservatives. He said he is watching to see if more BC United members make the switch.

"I would suggest today that this was sort of the wheels coming off the BC United bus," he said. "It's in real trouble now."

The standings in the 87-seat legislature are now 55 NDP, 23 BC United, three B.C. Greens, four BC Conservatives and two Independents.

The number of seats will increase to 93 in the next election and Rustad has said he plans to run a full slate of candidates.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 3, 2024.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2024
The Canadian Press

  • Popular penticton News
View Site in: Desktop | Mobile