10/07/2012 03:58 EDT | Updated 12/07/2012 05:12 EST

John Cummins, B.C. Conservative Party Leader, Issues Ultimatum As Infighting Continues


VANCOUVER - A crucial vote on the leadership of the divided BC Conservative Party has not ended party infighting.

Just over two weeks after party members voted against a review for John Cummins, the embattled leader issued an ultimatum on Sunday to his detractors: join him, or resign.

"I am unwavering in my dedication to the BC Conservatives, and fully intend to lead my party into the next general election," he said in a news release.

"Those few but vocal party members who are critical of my leadership and do not support me have until ... noon, Wednesday, to either get on-side or quit our party and join another."

The provincial party will refund the membership fees of any person who leaves, Cummins said. The party will also return any financial donations made within the last year.

More than 70 per cent of party members who voted turned down review for Cummins at their September convention, which would have forced him to step down. Roughly one-third of eligible members cast ballots on Sept. 22. About 245 members attended the annual general meeting.

But the victory was short-lived, with the Tories' only sitting MLA, John Van Dongen, quitting in protest. He now sits in the legislature as an Independent.

A group calling itself Friends of the B.C. Conservative Party, led by then-party vice-president Ben Besler, headed the rival group.

Besler left the party last week, joining the B.C. Liberals.

"You know I have been in conversations with the BC Liberal party for the past few weeks," he told Vancouver radio station CKNW at the time. "The reality is that I had made a conscious decision to leave the BC Conservative party. I have completely lost faith in that party as it is well documented."

After the vote results came in, Cummins told reporters no leader can expect 100 per cent support and stated he was satisfied with the results.

Party President Al Siebring said the party encourages open discussion and a diversity of opinion.

But he said the leadership issue has been settled, and he doesn't want the party to be distracted by a small group of dissidents.

He said in an interview a letter has been floating around still calling into question Cummins' leadership.

"Fundamentally, to me, the question is can we continue to move forward with this sniping from the sidelines? No, we don't want to do that," he said.

He believes the detractors represent less than eight per cent of the party's membership.

Siebring sent emails to Tory constituency association presidents Saturday night, stating the process is at stake.

"If you can't live with John Cummins as leader, that's fine. But you know what? Then just do the honourable thing and resign."

Siebring said the party's board hasn't yet discussed what they will do should the dissidents not take up Cummins' offer.

There are about 4,000 BC Conservatives members.

B.C. is scheduled to hold its next election on May 14, 2013.

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