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No election deal as leaders of BC United and Conservatives trade scathing comments

BC United Leader Kevin Falcon says the BC Conservatives have rejected a deal to avoid vote-splitting in the fall provincial election. Falcon addresses a press conference at the legislature in Victoria, Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Original Publication Date May 24, 2024 - 11:31 AM

VICTORIA - A proposed deal to avoid vote splitting between British Columbia's two right-of-centre parties in the fall election has fallen apart with their leaders blaming each other and trading scathing personal remarks.

BC United Leader Kevin Falcon said in a statement Friday the talks ended with B.C. Conservative Leader John Rustad ultimately deciding against a proposed "non-competition" agreement.

Falcon blamed Rustad for prioritizing "his own ambition" while Rustad said in a statement that Falcon was "irrational and unreasonable and prepared to lie."

Rustad added in an interview that BC United's proposal was "completely unacceptable."

Falcon said there were talks between two representatives of each party this month, most recently on Wednesday, and BC United proposed the non-competition framework.

He said the proposal included that the parties would not run candidates against each other's members who were seeking re-election, and the BC Conservatives would run in 47 seats and BC United in 46.

"Despite the common ground achieved during these meetings, last night John Rustad decided to reject a reasonable offer aimed at preventing a vote split, risking another four years of (Premier David) Eby’s NDP government that will further jeopardize the well-being of this province," Falcon's statement on Friday said.

"In doing so, John Rustad placed his own ambition above the best interests of British Columbia."

Rustad repeated his promise to field a full slate of candidates in all 93 B.C. ridings in October.

"People are looking for change," he said in his interview. "They are not looking for what has been."

Ravi Kahlon, NDP house leader and housing minister, said Friday in Vancouver the two opposition parties are fighting with each other while people in B.C. are dealing with the challenges of inflation and focused on health care and housing.

"These guys are so out of touch," he said. "They're squabbling over backroom deals and not even paying attention to what British Columbians care about."

Rustad said the B.C. Conservatives would go "head on with the NDP and challenge for government."

He said the talks included a proposal to run candidates under a single B.C. Conservative banner, but BC United was not in favour of that approach.

"I'm very disappointed in the approach they are taking," said Rustad. "It's irrational from my perspective. It's unreasonable. The offer they put on the table was not a serious offer from my perspective at all."

The standings in the current 87-seat B.C. legislature are: 55 NDP, 26 BC United, two B.C. Greens, two B.C. Conservatives and two Independents.

Falcon's statement said despite common ground between the parties' representatives, Rustad rejected the United proposal without making a counter-offer.

"As British Columbians continue to ask John Rustad and myself on the campaign trail why we could not find common ground, I can confidently say that BC United did everything possible to secure a free enterprise, non-competition framework," said Falcon.

Falcon said the rejected agreement also involved plans to form a coalition government if the combined BC United and B.C. Conservatives seats constituted a majority.

In his statement on Friday, Rustad repeated comments that the two parties would not merge before the election.

Falcon had bluntly rejected B.C. Conservative moves to hold merger talks late last year, Rustad said.

"Kevin Falcon declined our offers in December 2023 to discuss a possible merger — with a single message stating, and I quote, '’F#ck Off,' " he said. "In February, we tried again and BC United stated they’d be interested in speaking but Kevin Falcon would ‘dictate’ the terms."

Rustad's statement said recent polling suggested BC United is currently at 12 per cent of the popular vote with less than five months before the election.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 24, 2024.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2024
The Canadian Press

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