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Lorne Doerkson remains committed to riding first following party switch

The Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA has left B.C. United for the Conservative Party of B.C.
B.C. Conservative Party leader John Rustad, right, speaks to media Friday, May 31, 2024 as he announces Lorne Doerkson, MLA for Cariboo-Chilcotin, will be joining his party. (Wolfgang Depner/Black Press Media)

Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Lorne Doerkson has crossed the floor from B.C. United to the Conservative Party of B.C.

Doerkson made this announcement alongside Conservative leader John Rustad at a press conference in Victoria on Friday, May 31.

In his opening remarks, Doerkson said that he looks forward to joining “one of the largest grassroots movements” in B.C.’s political history and noted this decision was one of the toughest of his life.

“I am an MLA first. My goals haven’t changed one bit, I want to represent the riding the best way I know how and everybody in it,” Doerkson said.

“For me, that is going to continue to be the work of the day.”

Doerkson’s departure from B.C. United to join the Conservatives is the second such defection in less than a year and comes after the end of the spring session.

Bruce Banman, MLA for Abbotsford South, left B.C. United in the fall of 2023 before the start of that year’s fall session to join Rustad, another former United MLA kicked from the party by B.C. United leader Kevin Falcon in 2022 for his views on climate change.

READ MORE: BREAKING: MLA Lorne Doerkson departs B.C. United, joins B.C. Conservatives

Since joining and taking leadership of the Conservative Party of B.C., Rustad has overseen a surge in popularity for the party. Polls have shown the Conservatives outperforming B.C. United and, in some cases, the B.C. NDP party themselves. In a press release, Rustad noted his party plans to run candidates in all 93 of B.C.’s ridings.

“I’m thrilled to have Lorne on the team. As the MLA for Cariboo-Chilcotin, Lorne has been a tireless advocate for his region and the vital resources within it,” Rustad said.

“Whether it’s natural resources or small business, Lorne is an individual who puts his constituents first and that is exactly the kind of advocate we need in the legislature. He will be a strong Conservative MLA for the riding.”

Doerkson said he would “have loved to have seen some sort of coalition, but when that died two weeks ago, I had to move on” referring to a deal that would have seen B.C. United and the Conservative Party of B.C. agree not to run candidates against one another in certain ridings.

Doerkson declined to discuss his conversation with Falcon prior to making the switch, but rejected suggestions that his departure following the failed talks amounts to a critique of Falcon. “I’m not sure how you will interpret that, but I certainly wasn’t critiquing Kevin Falcon and I have a lot of respect for Kevin.”

Despite his new party affiliation, Doerkson stressed he remains MLA for the Cariboo-Chilcotin first. It was because of the feedback he received from his constituents, especially in recent months, that he chose to leave United and join the Conservatives.

“There has been an overwhelming amount of engagement that has been pretty encouraging from my constituents. There are few places I’ve gone to where I haven’t heard someone trying to encourage me to make a move to the Conservative Party of B.C.,” Doerkson said.

“As people contemplate the election a little more, I think there is a lot of frustration out there and people are starting to think about putting their mark by a Conservative member.”

With this party change, Doerkson is now the Conservative candidate for the Cariboo-Chilcoton in the upcoming election. He will run against B.C. NDP candidate Michael Moses and whoever B.C United chooses to replace him. The Green Party of B.C. has not yet announced a candidate for the riding.

During a tour of Cranbrook on Saturday, June 1, Falcon addressed Doerkson’s departure, noting that he was disappointed in his choice.

“At the end of the day, Lorne made that decision, he’ll have to defend it,” Falcon said.

“He’s scared and he’s worried about polls and I understand that, but for us, principles and values are actually really important.

“To have somebody that we’ve heard internally talk about how appalled he is by the B.C. Conservatives’ positions, especially on socially conservative issues, to then walk over and join that party is obviously disappointing, but he’ll have to defend that to his constituents and his community.”

READ MORE: BC United leader ‘disappointed’ as caucus chair quits, joins Conservatives

When asked if he thinks more United MLAs will follow his lead, Doerkson chose not to speculate, noting only he is sure that similar conversations to the ones he had are happening between MLAs and their constituents.

On Monday, June 3, Surrey South MLA Elenore Sturko also crossed the floor to join the Conservatives, giving them four MLAs and reducing United to 24 MLAs.

“I have had a good relationship with many of the (MLAs in Victoria) and try to work across party lines every day.

“The fact is I’m going to continue to try and keep those relationships,” Doerkson noted.

– With files from Wolf Depner and Trevor Crawley

Patrick Davies

About the Author: Patrick Davies

An avid lover of theatre, media, and the arts in all its forms, I've enjoyed building my professional reputation in 100 Mile House.
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