Feature Story Tuesday April 3, 2012
And Then There Were Three
BC Conservative candidate Martin ready to connect with Chilliwack voters on local issues
Craig Hill/Voice photos
MLA John van Dongen (L) and John Cummins flank Chilliwack-Hope by-election candidate John Martin at the campaign office Saturday.
he name “John” is pretty popular in Chilliwack these days. For instance, if you dropped into the BC Conservative campaign office Saturday and asked “John” a question, you would have gotten three different answers, all reading off the same page.
Party leader John Cummins and Abbotsford-South MLA John van Dongen were in Chilliwack to help their candidate John Martin kick-off his by-election campaign by doing a little door-knocking themselves.
Martin welcomed about 75 supporters with an air of serene confidence, and in his speech to the choir, said that the April 19 election will be a historic one.
“We're on the verge of dramatic change in this province and I think we're all seeing that happen,” he said. “There is a government in freefall that has lost its way, it's lost its purpose and mercifully there's somebody else who comes and pick up the slack and make sure the NDP doesn't return us to an era of destruction like they did in the 90's.”
Martin admitted that it wasn’t long ago that Conservative Party in BC was regarded as a 2 per cent fringe party, leaderless, without money and organization but says the polls have begun to swing in their favour.
“We've done a 180 degree turn-around from that, and that is basically a consequence of one individual, our leader John Cummins.”
“He's just an outstanding individual, I'm sure you all know of his background, his teaching experience and his cooking abilities and his abilities with music and he's just a man for all seasons,” said Cummins of Martin.
Cummins said he was out door-knocking in Chilliwack Saturday morning pounding the pavement, said the feedback from the community has been better than good.
“We showed up here this morning at 10 o'clock, got our instructions from campaign manager Sacha Peter, went out and did some door-knocking and what a treat that was just to meet the people in this riding and the response that we're getting at the doors is just so positive.”
In February, the BC NDP opened their campaign office with similar aplomb; however there was one notable difference, at the NDP opening there was a call for campaign donations and hands shot up in the air and figures were bandied about.
In stark contrast to that, at Martin’s office, there was no mention of wanting or needing campaign money, or a lack of it. Just a small stack of membership forms sat on a table near the door. Martin told the Voice Saturday that he wasn’t exactly sure of the party’s membership numbers in Chilliwack.
The Conservatives say issues like Waste-to-Energy, the carbon tax and the justice system are flying high on their radar screens.
“Right now we're looking at 2500 cases being dismissed because they are taking too long to get to trial,” said Martin.
John Martin is confident about his chances
of winning the by-election.
But Martin says by far the biggest issue is the Liberal management track record.
“That's a track record about deceit, deceit about BC Rail, deceit about the HST, deceit about sneaking in the carbon tax.”
“BC Rail continues to haunt the premier, it haunts the liberals, and by extension, it's haunting their campaign out here,” Martin told the Voice. “Sooner or later we will know the truth. I mean, there's coincidences in this world that when you cop a plea mere hours before the former finance minister is finally going to have to take the stand, the first senior member of the government is going to have to give sworn evidence.”
However Martin had to step aside briefly Saturday to allow for the lively sideshow surrounding MLA John van Dongen’s defection last Monday from the BC Liberals to the newly-formed BC Conservative Party.
MLA for Abbotsford-South, Van Dongen had the BC legislature agog and in a tizzy announcing he was throwing his support behind Cummins and the BC Conservative Party. What this means is that the Conservatives currently hold a single seat in the legislature.
Campaign manager Sacha Peter speaks with CBC cameraman Saturday.
“Earlier this week, we were just so grateful that John van Dongen decided that the new BC Conservatives were the best way and offer the best future for British Columbians,” said Cummins. “He's been a real asset to the party, the calls that I've had and the e-mails that I've had from around the province over this past week have just been so encouraging.”
“We were just so grateful to say that he decided that the best future, the future of British Columbia would be best served by a new BC Conservative Party with the kind of values that we want out of our government and the kind of commitment that we want in public service,” said Cummins adding “that’s the kind of actions we want from government to back up what we say we'll do as politicians.”
Van Dongen said he saw a pattern of a lack of accountability and said the “final straw” came when the Telus deal fell through and that none of the reasons were defendable.
“None of the reasons added up and in fact the reason the premier gave was it's not a good deal for taxpayers. Well there's lots of evidence both internal through government briefing notes and one of which is public—it's on our website—and in terms of marketing experts external to government have said that the Telus that had been negotiated, was a good deal for taxpayers.”
“When I came home after a week of trying to get to the bottom of that deal, that's when I started to think about making a final decision to leave the party.”
Van Dongen talks about his departure from the BC Liberal party as a good move for his constituents.
Van Dongen assured constituents that he was always acting in their best interests and insisted that he didn’t lose the connection with voters in his riding over the defection.
“I've had tremendously confident reaction from the public. Obviously, I've had a lot of reaction from Abbotsford-South and I tell you that about 150 phone calls and about 150 e-mails many of them from all over British Columbia and 98 per cent of them are supportive.”
Anyone following local media will know that the three party leaders have hijacked Chilliwack’s election with provincial issues and as a stage for their battles, Van Dongen says there are local issues that affect voters as well.
“There's always a crossover, things like the carbon tax a big issue for greenhouse operators and there's lots of them in this riding, for agriculture generally, for business generally, for consumers generally,” said Van Dongen. “The carbon tax is one that crosses over and there are regional issues like Waste-to-Energy. Trust is a big one, the candidate, the experience and local issues will all be a part of the factor, part of the mix.”
Currently Van Dongen is listed as an independent on the legislature website along with Delta MLA Vicki Huntingdon and Cariboo North MLA Bob Simpson.
Van Dongen brings 17-years of experience as an MLA, 8 years in cabinet, 3 different cabinet posts and about 15 years of corporate government experience as a director of Dairyland, including the vice president of the Board of Directors.
To volunteer or become a card-carrying member of the BC Conservative Party, visit the John Martin campaign office: Unit 1, 45609 Luckakuck Way, Chilliwack, BC (near Cottonwood Mall, next to M&M Meats, Quiznos and Vancity), call 604-791-5068 or connect via e-mail here.
During the by-elections, voters may vote:
For more information and a complete list of advance and General Voting Day voting locations, visit the Elections BC website at www.elections.bc.ca
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