BC Conservative Party A-Team Backs John Cummins Leadership

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JOHN CUMMINS
B.C. Conservative Party leader John Cummins has picked up the support of Al Siebring's A-team. (Handout) | Handout

VICTORIA - First it was "Friends" and now the "A-Team."

This weekend's British Columbia Conservative Party annual general meeting is starting to sound like an old sitcom reunion rather than an attempt by an upstart political party to cast itself as a credible alternative to Premier Christy Clark's Liberals.

Members will decide this weekend whether to hold a leadership review, and if approved, party Leader John Cummins would have to step down while a leader is chosen.

Cummins shrugged off internal threats to his leadership Wednesday, saying there would always be party members unhappy about the direction the party was taking.

"I think that's a normal course of events in any party," he said. "There's always going to be some folks that aren't particularly satisfied with the way things are going."

Vancouver Island's Al Siebring, an unabashed Cummins supporter, said he's put together the so-called A-Team to support his bid to become party president.

Siebring's eight-member slate faces a challenge from Ben Besler, who leads a group called the Friends of the B.C. Conservative Party. Besler, a current party vice-president, wants party members to vote in favour of a leadership review.

Besler said he's been sending emails to Conservative members calling on them to vote in favour of the leadership review.

The emails express concerns about Cummins' leadership style, his relations with the party's only member of the legislature John van Dongen, the party's third-place finishes in two recent byelections and Cummins' $4,000-a-month stipend.

Siebring said he decided to launch his A-team to give party members an alternative to Besler's Friends slate, which has been causing "general turmoil over the leadership."

"It was never my intention strategically to release that A-Team concept in the media generally," he said. "We were going to hold off with the actual unveiling of this until the annual general meeting."

But Besler's Friends slate was causing concerns among party members, Siebring said.

"There have been phone calls to party headquarters saying, 'Besler's team is out there, now we know who we're not voting for. Who do we vote for?'"

Siebring said he's confident party members will vote against a leadership review and Cummins will emerge from the meeting with solid support for his leadership.

He said he believes Besler's supporters form only a minority within the party and Cummins will receive the support of 80 per cent of party members.

"We have to show we are a credible force and the way we have to do that first of all is by showing that we know how to conduct and govern ourselves, and that from my perspective will be priority one for this new board," said Siebring.

"We (have) to re-establish some credibility that has been damaged by these few noisy individuals," he said.

Cummins said he expects the Conservatives to unite this weekend.

"The job now, after the weekend, is to make sure that everybody's on side and moving forward," he said.

Former New Westminster Conservative MP Paul Forseth is also running for party president.

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