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British Columbia Conservative Party

British Columbia Conservative Party
Active provincial party
Leader Dan Brooks
President Ian MacDonald
Founded 1903
Ideology Conservatism
Political position Centre-right
Colours Blue
Seats in Legislature
0 / 85
Politics of British Columbia
Political parties

The British Columbia Conservative Party is a political party in British Columbia, Canada. First elected as the government in 1903, the party went into decline after 1933. On July 18, 2013, John Cummins resigned from the position of party leader.[1] Dan Brooks was elected the new leader of the party on April 12, 2014.


  • Founding 1
  • Decline 2
  • The BC Progressive Conservative Party 3
  • Reemergence (1991–2009) 4
  • Increase in support and new leadership (2010–present) 5
  • Leaders 6
  • Election results 7
  • See also 8
  • References 9
  • External links 10


The BC Conservative Party, (also known as the provincial Tories), was formed in 1900 when the Liberal-Conservative Party selected its first provincial leader, Charles Wilson.[2] Several Opposition factions contested the 1900 general election against the non-partisan government but these were loose formations.[2] In 1902, the Conservative Party convention passed a resolution to stand candidates in the next general election.[2] Party government was introduced on June 1, 1903 by Premier Sir Richard McBride when he announced the formation of a Conservative government.[2] McBride believed that the system of non-partisan government that the province had been using was unstable and inhibiting development. His Conservatives won British Columbia's first election fought on the party system on October 3, 1903 with a two-seat majority in the British Columbia Legislative Assembly. The Tories implemented a policy along the lines of those of the national Conservative Party, which at the time favoured government intervention to help develop industry and infrastructure.

The Conservatives under McBride, and his successor William John Bowser, held power for thirteen years until they were defeated by the Liberals in the 1916 election. In November 1926 the Liberal-Conservative Party changed its name to the Conservative Party.[2]

The Tories returned to power in the 1928 election under Simon Fraser Tolmie. This was the last time the Conservatives formed a majority government in the province.


The Tolmie government was unable to deal with the Great Depression, and was wracked by infighting and indecision. The party was in such disarray that, despite being in power, the Conservative provincial association decided not to run any candidates in the 1933 election. Instead, each local association was to act on its own. Some candidates ran as Independents, some as Independent Conservatives. Those supporting Premier Tolmie ran as the Unionist Party of British Columbia and those grouped around William John Bowser, a former premier, ran as the Non-Partisan Independent Group. When Bowser died and the elections in Vancouver Centre and Victoria City were postponed, four Non-partisan and two Unionist candidates withdrew.

The Conservative Party rebounded under Frank Porter Patterson to run a near-full slate in the election of 1937.

In the election of 1941, the Conservatives managed to win 12 seats, compared to 21 for the Liberals and 14 for the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF, which became the New Democratic Party in 1961). The Liberals and Conservatives formed a coalition government known as "the Coalition" or the "Wartime Coalition". The business community feared the growing strength of the socialist CCF, and supporters of both the Liberals and the Conservatives argued that a united free market party was needed to keep the CCF from taking power.

Following the death of Conservative leader Royal Lethington Maitland in 1946 Herbert Anscomb became Conservative leader, Deputy Premier and Finance Minister.[3] When Premier Hart retired in 1947 the Conservatives wanted Anscomb to succeed him as Premier of British Columbia but the Liberals had more seats in the legislature and insisted that the Premier should remain a Liberal. Byron Johnson was appointed premier. The conflict strained relations between Johnson and Anscomb and their parties in the Coalition. The Conservatives were riven into three factions, one led by W.A.C. Bennett called for the Tories and Liberals to fuse into a single party, a second faction supported the status quo and a third wanted the Conservatives to leave the coalition. The Liberals, meanwhile, began to doubt the need to continue the coalition rather than govern on their own. The coalition was re-elected in the 1949 provincial election winning 39 seats against nine for the CCF opposition. Growing divisions within the Conservative Party resulted in Anscomb's leadership and the party's continuation in the coalition being unsuccessfully challenged at the 1950 party convention. W.A.C. Bennett, who was now in the anti-coalition faction, quit the party and crossed the floor to sit as a Social Credit League of British Columbia member and eventually formed the British Columbia Social Credit Party.[3]

The BC Progressive Conservative Party

In October 1951, the Liberal Party decided to dissolve the coalition; Premier Johnson dismissed his Conservative ministers including Anscomb and continued as a minority government. The Conservatives refounded their party calling themselves the "Progressive Conservatives" as the federal party had adopted the "Progressive" prefix in 1942.

W. A. C. Bennett, a Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA), ran for the leadership of the Tories and lost. Bennett had been elected and re-elected as a BC Conservative MLA in the 1941, 1945, and 1949 provincial elections. After losing the BC Conservative leadership, Bennett left the party and joined the small Social Credit League, becoming its leader. Bennett dropped the party's social credit monetary reform policy, and adopted a populist conservative platform.

The coalition government, whose raison d'être had been to keep the CCF out of power, had introduced an elimination ballot system for the 1952 election in the hope that Conservatives and Liberal supporters would list the other party as their second choice and keep the CCF out of power.

This worked to the benefit of Social Credit, who were able to take advantage of divisions between the Liberals and Conservatives, as well as the desire for change. Bennett's party was able to win a slim minority government with 19 Social Credit MLAs compared to 18 CCFers, one Labour, six Liberals, and four Tories. The Social Credit Party formed a government under Bennett and governed the province for the next two decades.[3]

It was clear to those who wanted to keep the CCF out of power that only the Social Credit Party would be able to accomplish that task. In the 1953 election, Liberal and Tory supporters transferred their support to Bennett's party, sweeping it to power with 28 out of 48 seats. Having a majority government the Social Credit government changed the electoral system back to first past the post in order to cement its base. Social Credit became, in effect, the new centre-right coalition party, and both the Liberals and the Tories became marginalised.

The Progressive Conservatives won only four seats in 1952, one in 1953, and were completely shut out of the legislature between 1956 and 1972 as conservative-minded voters moved to Social Credit. The Tories managed to win two seats in the 1972 election (Oak Bay and Saanich and the Islands), and one in the 1975 election (Oak Bay).

Scott Wallace was elected in the 1969 general election as a Social Credit Member of the Legislative Assembly for Oak Bay. Wallace crossed the floor to join the British Columbia Progressive Conservative Party in 1971 and was reelected as a Tory in the 1972 general election. He was elected leader of the party in 1973, after the previous party leader lost his seat, and led it through the 1975 general election in which he was the only Tory MLA to win a seat. He stepped down as party leader in July 1977 and retired from the Legislature on December 31, 1977 in order to return to his medical practice.

With most Conservatives in the province supporting Social Credit, the federal Progressive Conservative Party kept its distance in order to avoid alienating Social Credit Party supporters:

"When the federal and provincial general election campaigns overlapped in 1979, the federal Conservative leader [ Joe Clark ] was clearly at some pains to avoid any contact with Vic Stephens, the leader of the provincial party."[4]

Wallace's successor was the last BC Progressive Conservative MLA to be elected: Victor Albert Stephens in the 1978 Oak Bay by-election. The last MLA to represent the BC Progressive Conservative Party was Prince Rupert MLA Graham Lea, who had been elected as a New Democrat in 1983 but crossed the floor after losing the 1984 New Democrat leadership convention to become the sole member of the United Party. He then became a Progressive Conservative on March 26, 1986 before quitting politics altogether in October 1986 when the legislature was dissolved for the 1986 general election.

BC Conservative Party logo, 1991 to 2005.
BC Conservative Party logo, 2005 to 2012.

Reemergence (1991–2009)

In 1991, the party changed its name back to the BC Conservative Party but was unable to take advantage of the collapse of Social Credit that year.

The party nominated seven candidates in the 2005 election, who won a total of 9,623 votes, 0.55% of the provincial total. None were elected.

It nominated 24 candidates in the 2009 election, with a best showing of 20.16% of the vote in Boundary-Similkameen, and several other candidates polling over 10% of the vote. Following the election, the party's support in opinion polls rose.

Increase in support and new leadership (2010–present)

Conservative leader John Cummins (2011–2013)

At its annual general meeting on September 26, 2009, the party elected a new executive and re-elected Wayne McGrath as president. In 2010, the party formed an advisory committee that included, chairman Randy White, Brian Peckford, Rita Johnston, Jim Hart and John Cummins.[5][6][7][8][9]

At the end of 2010, the party had the support of 8% of votes according to opinion polls, had approximately 2,000 members, up from 300 in June of that year, and had constituency associations established in 45 of the province's 85 ridings.[10]

Several months after the election of Christy Clark as leader of the Liberal Party, and her subsequent swearing in as premier, the Conservatives' support rose again at the expense of the Liberals.[11][12]

The party held a leadership convention on May 28, 2011, and former Conservative Party of Canada Member of Parliament John Cummins was acclaimed leader.[13][14] After dropping into single digits after Campbell's resignation the Conservatives consistently polled above 10 per cent in the last half of 2011, reaching as high as 23 per cent.[15]

The BC Conservatives have been gaining supporters, including from Finance Minister Kevin Falcon. According to Falcon, "a number of my supporters that may have done that and I’m not entirely surprised."[16]

On March 26, 2012, Abbotsford South MLA John van Dongen announced that he was leaving the BC Liberals to join the BC Conservatives,[17] providing the party with its first representative in the legislature since 1986. In September 2012, John van Dongen switched to independent status after the re-election of John Cummins as leader of the BC Conservative Party.[18][19]


Election results

1903–1928 elections
Date of election # of seats
# of candidates
Votes % of
popular vote
# of
seats won
3 October 1903 42 41 27,913 46.43 22
2 February 1907 42 42 30,781 48.70 26
25 November 1909 42 42 53,074 52.33 38
28 March 1912 42 42 50,423 59.65 39
14 September 1916 47 46 72,842 40.52 9
1 December 1920 47 42 110,475 31.20 15
20 June 1924 48 47 101,765 29.45 17
18 July 1928 48 48 192,867 53.30 35
  • In the November 2, 1933 election, because of internal discord, the provincial executive of the Conservative Party decided not to contest the election officially; each local association was to act on its own. Some candidates ran as straight Independents, some as Independent Conservatives; those supporting the premier, Simon Fraser Tolmie, ran as Unionists; and those grouped around William John Bowser, a former premier, ran as Non-Partisans. When Bowser died and the election in Vancouver Centre and Victoria City was postponed, 4 Non-Partisans and 2 UPBC candidates withdrew.
November 2, 1933 election (47 seats)
# of candidates
Votes % of popular vote # of seats
Non Partisan Independent Group 30 38,836 10.19 2
Unionist Party of British Columbia 12 15,445 4.05 1
Independent Conservative 6 7,114 1.87

1937–1949 elections
Date of election # of seats
Votes % of
popular vote
# of seats
# of candidates
1 June 1937 48 119,521 28.60 8 43
21 October 1941 48 140,282 30.91 12 43
25 October 1945 (Coalition) 48 261,147 55.83 37 47
15 June 1949 (Coalition) 48 428,773 61.35 39 48
  • Note: In the 1945 and 1949 elections, the Conservatives ran in a coalition with the Liberal Party.
  • In the 1952 and 1953 elections, British Columbia employed a preferential ballot.
1952–1953 elections
Date of election # of seats
# of candidates
First votes % Final votes % # of seats
12 June 1952 48 48 129,439 16.84 65,285 9.66 4
9 June 1953 48 39 40,780 5.60 7,326 1.11 1
Post 1953 elections
Date of election # of seats
Votes % of
popular vote
# of seats
# of candidates
19 September 1956 52 25,373 3.11 - 22
12 September 1960 52 66,943 6.72 - 52
30 September 1963 52 109,090 11.27 - 44
12 September 1966 55 1,409 0.18 - 3
27 August 1969 55 1,087 0.11 - 1
30 August 1972 55 143,450 12.67 2 49
11 December 1975 55 49,796 3.86 1 29
26 April 1979 57 71,078 5.06 - 37
5 May 1983 57 19,131 1.16 - 12
22 October 1986 69 14,074 0.73 - 12
17 October 1991 69 426 0.03 - 4
28 May 1996 75 1,002 0.06 - 8
16 May 2001 79 2,417 0.15 - 6
17 May 2005 79 9,623 0.55 - 7
12 May 2009 85 34,465 2.10 - 24
14 May 2013 85 77,770 4.78 - 56

See also


  1. ^ "B.C. Conservative Leader John Cummins resigns". The Globe and Mail. July 18, 2013. Retrieved August 10, 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f Legislative Library of British Columbia, Party Leaders in British Columbia 1900–, 2000, updated 2005
  3. ^ a b c Hans J. Michelmann, David E. Smith, Cristine De Clercy Continuity And Change in Canadian Politics: Essays in Honour of David E. Smith, University of Toronto Press (2006), page 184
  4. ^ Morley, J. Terence; Ruff, Norman J.; Swanson, Neil A.; Wilson, R. Jeremy; and Young, Walter D., The Reins of Power: Governing British Columbia, p. 92, Douglas & McIntyre, Vancouver, 1983
  5. ^ "Bc Conservatives Appoint Former Commons House Leader To Chair Political Strategy | The Bc Conservative Party". April 20, 2010. Retrieved May 19, 2011. 
  6. ^ "Former Premier Brian Peckford Joins Conservative Advisors | The Bc Conservative Party". September 5, 2010. Retrieved May 19, 2011. 
  7. ^ "Former Premier Rita Johnston Joins Conservative Advisors | The Bc Conservative Party". September 16, 2010. Retrieved May 19, 2011. 
  8. ^ "International Governance And Democracy Expert Joins Bc Conservative Advisors | The Bc Conservative Party". September 24, 2010. Retrieved May 19, 2011. 
  9. ^ "Mp Cummins Joins Bc Conservative Advisory Group | The Bc Conservative Party". September 30, 2010. Retrieved May 19, 2011. 
  10. ^ "Spurred by warhorses, B.C. Tories plot a comeback", Globe and Mail, December 28, 2010
  11. ^ Mason, Gary (July 18, 2011). "Will Christy Clark buy time before trip to polls?". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved December 9, 2011. 
  12. ^ "Why Christy Clark's Election Decision Is So Tough". The Tyee. August 17, 2011. Retrieved December 9, 2011. 
  13. ^ Hui, Stephen (January 10, 2011). "B.C. Conservative Party sets leadership convention for May 28". Retrieved May 19, 2011. 
  14. ^ Cummins named leader of B.C. Conservatives
  15. ^ "BC Liberal declines under Premier Clark benefit Conservatives, NDP". The Tyee. November 3, 2011. Retrieved December 9, 2011. 
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^

B.C. Conservative Leader John Cummins resigns

External links

  • BC Conservative Party
  • BC Conservative Party Campaign Website
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