Former BC Liberals MLA John Rustad only made his move across the floor a few weeks ago to join the efforts of the Conservative Party of BC, but could become party leader in short order.
Rustad, who has represented the riding of Nechako Lakes since 2009, said he is considering a run for the party’s leadership.
“But family comes first,” he said. “I need some time to continue my conversations with my family.”
Rustad, who joined the Conservative Party of BC on Feb. 16, made those comments after party leader Trevor Bolin announced he’d be stepping away because he wants to spend more time with his family.
Bolin, who owns a business in Fort St. John, where he also serves on council, will remain interim leader.
“I am proud of what we have done as Conservatives across this province and look forward to continuing to champion my home riding of Peace River North and running as a Conservative under our new leader in next year’s election,” Bolin said.
Rustad previously sat with the BC Liberals until opposition leader Kevin Falcon kicked him out of caucus in August 2022 after he publicly questioned the causes of climate change.
Rustad technically remains an independent MLA but his new party could claim official status in the provincial legislature if another MLA were to officially join him. Such a change in status would mean additional financial resources for the party.
A committee chaired by Vancouver lawyer Aisha Estey will organize the leadership race with details to be announced in coming weeks.
Questions about whether Rustad would run for the leadership of his new party emerged the moment his move across the floor had become official. Rustad said at the time that the party had a leader — Bolin – and that everything else was speculation.
Once instrumental in the early history of B.C., provincial Conservatives have gone through various changes over the years, winning a mere 35,902 votes, or 1.91 per cent, across 19 ridings in the 2020 provincial election.
But the party has the potential to play spoiler to the detriment of BC Liberals in competitive ridings.
Consider Abbotsford-Mission, where Conservative Trevor Hamilton won almost eight per cent of the vote. Minister of Agriculture Pam Alexis won that riding by less than three per cent against BC Liberal incumbent Simon Gibson.
An even closer riding was Vernon-Monashee, where New Democrat Harwinder Sandhu edged out incumbent BC Liberal Eric Foster by less than 1.5 per cent with the Conservative Kyle Delfing having won nearly 13 per cent.