CHILLIWACK, B.C. - In a move that appeared to be timed to deliver a body blow to the BC Conservatives, one of its former byelection candidates has defected to the provincial Liberals.
John Martin's decision to jump to the BC Liberal Party and seek the nomination in Chilliwack came a day before the provincial Conservatives vote on the question of a leadership review.
Delegates will decide on a review of John Cummins' leadership Saturday, and if the vote is approved, Cummins will have to step down immediately while a new leader is chosen.
Martin announced Friday the Liberals are the only free-enterprise party able to beat the NDP in the next election.
"The B.C. Conservative option is no longer for me," he said.
He also urged British Columbians to "take another look, take a long, hard second look at this premier and this government. I have done that in this past while and that's why I'm here today."
There is more that unites than divides supporters of free enterprise, he said.
"I don't want to wait until Adrian Dix and the NDP are elected to unite forces. I have made this decision to help prevent that from happening."
Martin said he made the decision to help prevent another "disastrous NDP government."
As the Conservative candidate in April's byelection in Chilliwack-Hope, Martin came in third behind the winning NDP candidate and Liberals.
Cummins issued a statement Friday that said the party was to hold its inaugural candidate seminar with 23 hopefuls in attendance.
"The calibre of candidates joining the B.C. Conservatives in the potentially historic 2013 general election is extremely encouraging and bodes well for our party's prospects at the polls," he said
Only the last line in the news release refers to Martin's departure.
"We wish him well in the future," the statement concludes.
Martin is a criminologist and teaches at the University of the Fraser Valley.
His announcement also came the same day Colin Hansen, the former minister for health and finance during the Gordon Campbell government, said he wouldn't be running for re-election.
Martin said he was thrilled to be part of a party that is undergoing renewal.
"New candidates are stepping forward, there's an opportunity for change, and I believe this premier and this party can deliver and save us from the worst-case scenario of an NDP administration."
He'll be seeking the Liberal nomination in the riding of Chilliwack, and the outgoing Liberal MLA John Les stood by Martin's side when he announced his defection.
"I salute your decision today to join the BC Liberal Party and work with us collectively to ensure that we keep our coalition, free-enterprise government in the province of B.C.," Les said.