Ben Besler Leads BC Conservative Revolt Against John Cummins

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BEN BESLER
LinkedIn photo of Ben Besler. (LinkedIn) | LinkedIn

VICTORIA - British Columbia's Conservative Party Leader John Cummins could become a victim of friendly fire this weekend at his party's annual general meeting in Langley.

Two opposing factions within the Conservatives are billing themselves as friends heading into Saturday's meeting, but while one group is openly friendly towards Cummins, the other says happiness comes with a leadership review that tosses Cummins from his job.

A group calling itself Friends of the Conservative Party surfaced Tuesday, running a seven-member slate of candidates for the party's executive positions and calling for votes in favour of a leadership review that will see Cummins forced to step down as leader if the vote passes.

The Friends of the Conservative Party group is the new faction, while another group called Friends of John Cummins, formed earlier, supports Cummins as leader and is urging members to reject the call for a leadership vote.

The party's constitution calls for a vote on whether to hold a leadership review and requires only a majority vote to pass. If it passes, Cummins would have to step down and a leadership campaign would start.

Party members have already received ballots and the result of the leadership review vote will be released at the Langley meeting.

Ben Besler, the party's current vice-president, said he's running for party president as part of the Friends of B.C. Conservative Party slate.

Besler is one of several party members, including current director John Crocock, who have been calling for Conservatives to vote in favour of a leadership review.

Besler would not directly discuss his group's leadership concerns, but previously said he was part of a group that sent emails to party members expressing concerns about Cummins's leadership style, his relations with the party's only member of the legislature John van Dongen, the party's two third-place finishes in recent byelections and Cummins's $4,000-a-month stipend.

"I'm not going to come out and blatantly say, 'You know, the slate is anything to do with leadership,'"' he said.

"But you can read into the fact the slate is backing myself and John Crocock. The slate is supporting myself and John Crocock, who have called for a Yes vote."

Cummins was unavailable for immediate comment Tuesday. He had said earlier he expects party members to turn down the leadership review option and believes the Conservatives will emerge from the weekend strong, united and ready to take on Premier Christy Clark's Liberals.

He said earlier the release of his friends' lists, including party executives, riding representatives and women's groups, was meant to counter the emails sent to party members asking them to vote in favour of a leadership review.

He called the Friends of John Cummins lists "spontaneous."

Cummins is scheduled to address the party faithful on Saturday.

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