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MLA Banman's bolt from BC United delivers official party status to Conservatives

MLA Bruce Banman announced Wednesday he quit the BC United to join the Conservative Party of B.C.
The provincial legislature reconvenes Oct. 3 for a fall sitting that ends Nov. 30 | Darren Stone/Times Colonist

For the third time in just over 11 years, Abbotsford South’s MLA has caused a B.C. political earthquake.

Bruce Banman announced Wednesday morning that he had left the Kevin Falcon-led BC United Opposition party to sit as a member of the Conservative Party of B.C. under leader John Rustad.

Most recently, Banman was the Falcon-appointed shadow minister for emergency management, climate readiness and citizen services.

A Conservative-issued statement from Banman said that he made the decision in order to keep his promise to represent his constituents’ best interests. He gave a ringing endorsement to Rustad and his party, saying nobody else in Victoria “stands for what’s right in the legislature, rather than rather than what's politically convenient or politically correct."

"As a Conservative MLA, I'm looking forward to having the opportunity to speak honestly and openly on behalf of my constituents,” Banman said.

Banman’s defection means the Conservatives are tied with the BC Greens at two seats apiece and the former BC Liberals are down to 25. The NDP, under Premier David Eby, maintains a comfortable majority with 57 seats.

In reaction, a BC United statement from Falcon said that Banman’s departure was “not entirely unexpected due to ongoing internal management challenges with Banman.”

“His decision betrays the Abbotsford constituents who elected him as a member of our team,” Falcon said.

Banman, a chiropractor, was Abbotsford’s mayor from 2011 to 2014 and returned as a city councillor in 2018. He won the riding for the BC Liberals in 2020, succeeding the twice-elected criminology professor Darryl Plecas.

Falcon ejected Rustad from his caucus more than a year ago after Rustad promoted someone else’s Twitter and Facebook post that was skeptical of carbon impacts on climate change. Although, former BC Liberal forests and Indigenous relations minister Rustad emphatically said he believes in climate change. He joined the Conservatives and became leader by acclamation last March.

In 2012, former BC Liberal cabinet minister John van Dongen defected to the Conservatives under then-leader John Cummins. Van Dongen accused former premier Christy Clark of a conflict of interest related to the BC Rail privatization and intervened in the auditor general’s lawsuit seeking the deal to pay $6 million to the lawyers of former BC Liberal aides Dave Basi and Bob Virk, the only two convicted in the BC Rail corruption case. 

The BC Liberals recruited Plecas, who went on to beat van Dongen in the 2013 election. Four years later, after the BC Liberals lost power to the Green-supported NDP minority, Plecas triggered Clark’s resignation when he threatened to quit the party and sit as an independent.

Later that summer, Plecas became an independent MLA and was elected speaker of the legislature. A year later, he blew the whistle on corruption in the offices of BC Liberal-appointed clerk Craig James and sergeant-at-arms Gary Lenz, who both resigned in disgrace.

James was found guilty last year of breach of trust and fraud, and sentenced to house arrest.

Banman’s statement said the Conservatives “don't support Trudeau-backed policies like the punishing carbon tax that hurts everyday people; we refuse to condone the ideological NDP education agenda that teaches students what to think instead of how to think; and, we will never support the myth of safe supply that kills British Columbians and poisons our communities with hard drugs.”

The provincial legislature reconvenes Oct. 3 for a fall sitting that ends Nov. 30. The next election is scheduled for Oct. 19, 2024. Eby has repeatedly denied plans to go to the polls sooner.

The BC Liberals rebranded as BC United in April and its candidates in two June by-elections in safe NDP ridings failed to achieve nine per cent of the popular vote.

Mike Harris, the Conservative runner-up to the NDP’s Ravi Parmar in Langford-Juan de Fuca, had nearly 20 per cent of the popular vote.