B.C. Liberals close ranks after defection
VICTORIA – Premier Christy Clark says she isn't expecting any more resignations from the B.C. Liberal caucus after Abbotsford South MLA John van Dongen's abrupt jump to the B.C. Conservatives on Monday.
Other B.C. Liberal MLAs canvassed in the wake of van Dongen's resignation were unanimous in supporting the government and characterizing his defection as a mistake.
Abbotsford-Mission MLA Randy Hawes offered only tepid support for Clark's leadership, describing her as being "in a learning stage" but "doing fine." Hawes said he has not been approached by the B.C. Conservatives, and his only decision is whether to seek a fourth term next year or retire to play golf, since he has turned 65.
Chilliwack MLA John Les said he has not yet decided if he will run in the 2013 election. Les added that van Dongen's resignation from caucus was clearly orchestrated with B.C. Conservative leader John Cummins days in advance.
He noted that as an MP, Cummins supported a bill calling on politicians resigning their seats and running in a by-election if they want to switch parties. Asked about that policy on Monday, Cummins said he had forgotten about his earlier support for that position.
Northern seats and others with a history of Reform Party support have been a focus for the B.C. Conservatives. But Transportation Minister Blair Lekstrom says the rival party is "non-existent" in his home constituency of Peace River South.
Peace River North MLA Pat Pimm said he has no interest in sitting as an independent or considering another party.
"I support Christy Clark, and I'll be a B.C. Liberal in the next election," Pimm said.
Clark met with reporters Tuesday to take questions, including those about van Dongen's accusations about the BC Rail sale and subsequent prosecutions of former ministerial aides Dave Basi and Bobby Virk. Clark again rejected calls for an inquiry into the case, saying she has answered every question about her own involvement in the original sale.
Clark said the government has cooperated with Auditor General John Doyle's requests for documents as far as possible, and those in dispute are the subject of a court case.
"The only documents that haven't been released are ones that our legal advice tells us we cannot release," Clark said, adding that a judge will rule if that advice was correct.
Clark said her top priority is to keep the B.C. Liberal coalition together for the next election.
"The only thing I would say about John [van Dongen] is, he's making it easier for Adrian Dix to become premier," Clark said.