BC Conservative leader John Cummins resigns

The leader of the B.C. Conservative Party has resigned a little more than two months after he and his team of candidates were shut out of the legislature during a disappointing provincial election.

John Cummins tendered his resignation to the party’s board Thursday evening, and while neither he nor the party offered an explanation, the veteran politician said he was leaving with his head held high.

“While the ultimate result of the election was not what we were looking for, I’m proud to have been able to lead a team of credible candidates who re-engaged voters in a way that allowed them to express themselves and cast a ballot for a common-sense alternative,” said Cummins in a statement.

Cummins said his party gave electors a true alternative and brought back thousands of British Columbians to the polls, increasing voter turnout.

He thanked the party’s board for its “outstanding support” and its membership for their encouragement “through all that has transpired.”

The resignation is effective immediately, and the party said its board will meet next week to finalize plans for a leadership race and convention.

Dan Brooks, who sits as a director at large on the party’s board, said earlier Thursday that Cummins made the decision after the Conservatives’ disastrous showing in the May election.

The announcement ends a day of speculation about Cummins’ political future. When asked earlier in the day if Cummins would resign Thursday night, party president Dan Denis responded “not necessarily” and noted Cummins had not yet tendered a resignation.

The Conservatives, considered a serious threat to the B.C. Liberals during two byelections last year, imploded before the provincial vote amid infighting and demands for Cummins’ resignation, which Cummins successfully deflected by winning a confidence vote.

Denis said Brooks is planning to run as a leadership candidate and “he’s made lots of noise about that.” Brooks confirmed he would run for Cummins’ job.

Doug Machan, who also sits as a director at large on the party’s executive, suggested no one should be surprised when Cummins leaves the post.

“I think everyone recognizes that John is a person who is 71 years of age. He is not going to be around for the next election.”

Cummins, a former Reform and Conservative MP, ran for the leadership of the B.C. Conservatives in 2011 and won by acclamation.

As dissatisfaction with the B.C. Liberals grew, Cummins tried to hive off the Liberals’ right-of-centre vote by offering a free-enterprise alternative.

Although the party had only two per cent of the popular vote in 2009, the Conservatives received 15 per cent of the vote in the Port Moody byelection and 25 per cent support in the Chilliwack-Hope byelection in 2012.

After the byelections, the Conservatives became mired in infighting with several party members calling for Cummins’ resignation.

The party’s lone MLA, disaffected former Liberal cabinet minister John van Dongen, quit the party to sit as an independent shortly after Cummins won the confidence vote, ensuring Cummins led the party into the provincial election.

Cummins came a distant third in his own riding and the party managed to garner only 4.8 per cent of the popular vote.

MLA John Martin, who ran unsuccessfully for the Conservatives in the Chilliwack-Hope byelection in 2012 but was elected as a Liberal in May, said Cummins is a “great guy” who worked very hard, and he has nothing but respect for his former leader.

“But at the end of the day, the reality is, and we saw this in the byelection, is that a third party in this province, all they can do is ensure that the NDP win more seats.