“The shackles of caucus have been removed,” says now-Independent MLA John Rustad.
Could BC Conservatives be on the verge of having their first MLA in the legislature in almost a decade?
It’s looking like more and more of a possibility, after former BC Liberal MLA John Rustad publicly endorsed the Conservative candidate in the ongoing Surrey South byelection.
This week, Rustad tweeted out a photo of himself with Conservative candidate Harman Banghu, encouraging others to donate to his campaign to fight “environmental elitist policies which punish working people.”
Rustad was ejected from the BC Liberal caucus on Aug. 18 after refusing to take down social media posts that questioned the role of CO2 in climate change. The BC NDP say that amounted to denying climate change is real, though Rustad denies that was his intent.
Not defecting… yet
Rustad’s public thumb in the eye to his former party has many speculating he’s on the verge of joining the BC Conservatives.
As the MLA for Nechako Lakes, Rustad would give the Conservatives their first seat since 2013, when then Abbotsford South MLA John van Dogen was defeated by voters after defecting from the BC Liberals a year earlier.
But in an interview with Northern Beat, Rustad said he’s not ready to make the move. Yet.
“I have not spoken with the leader of that party,” Rustad said of Conservative leader Trevor Bolin.
“He hasn’t reached out to me and I haven’t reached out to him.”
However, he admitted the conversation is bound to come up soon.
“There’s issues that I want to champion, there’s values I want to be able to carry forward with and if those happen to align then it’s certainly something I’m going to consider,” he said.
“At some point they will reach out, and I’ll have that conversation with them.”
Caucus of one
Rustad is set to start October’s fall session of the legislature as an independent MLA. He said he’s free to support anyone, now that “the shackles of caucus have been removed.”
“If good policies or approaches come forward from Liberals, or NDP, or Greens, or others, I will support them,” he said.
“We have to start having the conversation of the consequences and unintended consequences of these policies and nobody is willing to have them.”
As an example, Rustad said Ottawa’s proposal to reduce national fertilizer emissions by 30 per cent by 2030 could devastated the cattle herds and agriculture base in his northern riding. But nobody wants to talk about the impact that will cause to things like food prices.
He also cited B.C.’s plan to only allow new vehicles sold after 2035 to be zero-emission, saying there is no discussion of how to produce the extra energy required to feed that spike in electric vehicles.
And he said, beyond climate change, he disagrees with the B.C. government’s strident court challenges to private medical care, saying getting people health care is more important than arguing where it comes from.
“As soon as you stand up to say anything, the environmental elitists immediately start attacking you and shutting it down,” said Rustad.
He said he tried to bring up his views at caucus meetings but the discussion kept getting pushed off to a later date and he failed to see eye-to-eye with party leader Kevin Falcon.
Falcon accused Rustad of not being a team player or sticking to agreed-upon caucus positions on major issues when he fired him Aug. 18.
“Politics is a blood sport”
“This cancel culture we have, and this woke response, I think quite frankly has scared Kevin and he figures he needs to fight to be part of that to get votes,” said Rustad. “I guess that’s up to him. Personally, I really think we should be able to have these conversations.”
However, Rustad admits he knew he was pushing the line with his social media posts and choosing to ignore his leader.
“Politics is a blood sport,” he said. “I don’t have any hard feelings towards Kevin or my colleagues or even the party.”
Still though, he admits he’s a bit melancholy about the end of more than two decades of association with the BC Liberals.
“I’ve got mixed feelings,” he said. “I’ve been involved in BC Liberal politics for almost 22 years. I still think of it as my party, and family. But obviously, that’s not the case anymore.”