VICTORIA - British Columbia's Conservative leader has brushed off the latest calls for his resignation by saying it's simply a minority of dissidents making a lot of noise.
But the noise threatened to become a deafening roar Wednesday as a collection of constituency association presidents, angered by John Cummins' earlier ultimatum that they get in line with his leadership or leave the party, issued their own edict to the embattled leader: Quit by Friday or the money dries up.
Ariane Eckardt, constituency association president for Burnaby North, said Cummins' continued leadership has prompted potential donors to the party to put away their wallets.
"We sort of have an ultimatum, either Mr. Cummins goes by Friday, and if he doesn't maybe he will stay until the money runs out from the party," she told a news conference.
"We have been told that several donors have chosen not to donate anymore to the party, and at the tune of $4,000 a month, which is what Mr. Cummins is getting at this point, we would think that the money is going to run out."
Eckardt later said Cummins is also costing the party "substantial" future donations, as well.
"I have been told now several times that there are people waiting in the wings to get this party healthy again so that they can support us," she said after the news conference.
But even before their press conference, Cummins issued a news release noting the B.C. Conservatives raised over $200,000 in the first nine months of this year, leaving the party in the best shape ever.
He said that in 2012, the party will raise as much as it did in the previous seven years combined.
"I'm pumped, I think that things are going remarkably well," Cummins said in an interview as the dissidents held their news conference.
"We've had a bit of a surge actually since these troubles have started and that suggests people are looking beyond the noise and at the substance of the party and they're liking what they see."
Cummins said the party had 14 resignations between his ultimatum Sunday and his Wednesday deadline, but since September, he said the party has attracted 381 new members.
He acknowledged the questions about his leadership have been problematic.
"It's a pebble in a can, it makes a lot of noise, but it's not really substantive, that's the issue."
Ian Pyper, a past advisor to Cummins and constituency association president for Oak Bay-Gordon Head, said Cummins needs to resign because of declining public support, the loss of its one MLA, John van Dongen, and the pursuit of a "scorched-earth policy" against long-standing members who were expelled after raising leadership questions.
"A scorched-earth policy is a war-time concept," he said. "It is not one to be used in a broad-based democratic political party.
"Politics is not a matter of black and white. It is an art of listening and compromise."
Pyper said five constituency associations from southern Vancouver Island were behind the calls on Cummins to resign.
John Crocock, the Conservative member who was among the first to go public with complaints about Cummins' leadership and is disputing his expulsion from the party, said the situation is currently stuck at a stalemate.
"Hopefully common sense will prevail," said Crocock, who wrote a letter last month calling for a leadership review.
"I mean if it continues the party will go down in flames and hopefully that is not going to happen."
Complaints about Cummins' leadership have been brewing over the last several weeks, but last month, party members voted just over 70 per cent in support of his leadership and against holding a leadership review.
Cummins touted the vote as proof that questions over his leadership should be put to rest.
Hours after the vote, the party's only sitting MLA quit the party saying he didn't believe Cummins had the capacity to do the job.
On Tuesday, two riding association presidents issued a letter saying Cummins has plunged the party into a self-destructive process.
Eckardt said there are about 20 constituency association presidents who are onside with calls for Cummins to go.
But Cummins said the presidents don't represent many members.
"The riding associations that are represented by those presidents, it's not great. The membership in some of those ... constituency associations is in name only. They have not been able to grow their own members in their own regions."