British Columbia Conservative Party

British Columbia Conservative Party
Leader John Martin Cummins
President Wayne McGrath
Founded 1903
Headquarters 1001 Windsor Place, Vernon, BC, V1P 9E7
Ideology Conservatism
Political position Centre-right to Right-wing
Official colours Blue & Green
Seats in Legislature
0 / 85
Official website
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. In May 2011, a leadership convention acclaimed former Conservative MP John Cummins leader of the party.[1]


Founding of the BC Conservative Party

The BC Conservative Party, (also known as 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. The subsequent 1903 election along party lines.[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 3 October 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 officially 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 would form a majority government in the province.

Decline of the Conservative Party

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 the premier, Simon Fraser Tolmie, ran as 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. 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 and Deputy Premier as well as 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 resulting in the appointment of Byron Johnson as premier. The conflict strained relations between Johnson and Anscomb and their parties in the subsequent 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 join and eventually lead the British Columbia Social Credit Party.[3]

The BC Progressive Conservative Party

In October 1951, the Liberal Party decided to dissolve the coalition and 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. In the ensuing 1952 provincial election the Liberals were reduced to six seats, the Conservatives to four and Johnson and Anscomb both lost their seats while the Social Credit Party was able to form a government under Bennett that would rule the province for the next two decades.[3]

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 instant-runoff voting 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.

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 their 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).

George Scott Wallace was elected in the 1969 general election as a Social Credit Member of the British Columbia 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 NDP 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.

Reemergence 1991-present

BC Conservative Party logo, 1991 to 2005.


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. In 2000 and 2001, it discussed with four other conservative parties to form the British Columbia Unity Party, but that coalition soon fell apart, and the BC Conservative Party remained as a separate entity.

On September 1, 2004, BC Unity and the BC Conservatives announced an Agreement-in-Principle (AIP) for the two parties to merge under the Conservative Party name.

On September 18, 2004, the delegates in attendance at the BC Conservative Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Burnaby voted 24-13 to ratify the Agreement-in-Principle signed by party leader Barry Chilton, but this did not attain the 2/3 vote required to pass. A new board of directors was elected at the AGM. A new president, Bill Smith, was elected on a promise to support the merger provided it was voted on by the membership, not just the board. The merger deal, therefore, fell through.

For the October 28, 2004 Surrey-Panorama Ridge by-election, the party nominated David James Evans as its candidate. Evans finished in fourth place with 2.19% of the vote -- behind Green Party Leader Adriane Carr, and ahead of Reform BC President Shirley Abraham.

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. Two candidates, Colin Black in Okanagan-Vernon, and Beryl Ludwig in Shuswap, won over 2,000 votes each. Black won over 11.56% of the vote in his riding, while Ludwig won 9.92%. Both Black and Ludwig finished in third place.

On January 26, 2008 the British Columbia Unity Party Board decided to poll the membership regarding the merger of the Party with the BC Conservatives or its de-registration. A General Meeting was called for Saturday March 29, 2008 in Surrey. The poll returns indicated 4:1 ratio in favour of a merger with the BC Conservative Party, and the General Meeting confirmed this motion. The BC Conservative Party accepted the former BC Unity Party memberships at their April 19, 2008 executive meeting in Abbotsford. However, the memberships were not approved as a merger but as a transfer of memberships from one party to another party. Members transferring would have to pay for their memberships in the usual manner. The BC Unity Party was planning to complete the merger and de-registration process before the BC Conservative Party AGM in Kamloops on Saturday June 7, 2008.

On February 16, 2009, the Supreme Court of British Columbia ruled that a group claiming to be the Board of Directors after a meeting in August 2008 were not the directors of the party. The court also ruled that group bringing forward the petition to have themselves recognized as the directors and executive were also denied their petition and therefore they were not the executive and directors of the society/party. The presiding judge of the case also made note that; because the "registered" constitution was not being used from 2005 onward; that all SGM's and AGM's and all elections held in these general meetings were null and void. [5]

Under the leadership of Wilf Hanni, the BC Conservatives nominated 24 candidates in the 2009 election. The party performed strongly in several ridings: former Liberal Joe Cardoso won 20.16% of the vote in Boundary-Similkameen, the party's best showing, and several other candidates polling over 10% of the vote. Following the election, the party has seen a rise in support in opinion polls.

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.[6]

2006 leadership convention

Wilf Hanni, Leader (2005-2009)

The BC Conservative 2005 Annual General Meeting was held in Vernon on September 24, 2005. and subsequent to the AGM, a board meeting was held to appoint former Reform BC Leader Wilf Hanni as Interim Leader. A BC Conservative Special General Meeting was held in Kamloops on March 18, 2006 – where Hanni was acclaimed as the Leader of the BC Conservatives. After surviving an attempt to remove him as leader and ban him from the party, Hanni led the party's 24 candidates into the 2009 provincial election in which the party won 2% of the popular vote. Hanni resigned as leader in June 2009, along with eight members of the party's board of directors, saying that he "spent much of the last four years fighting a long and protracted battle with a group of dissidents."[7]

Advisory Group formed in 2010

2011 leadership convention

At its annual general meeting on September 26, 2009 the party elected a new executive and re-elected Wayne McGrath as president. The party held its leadership convention on May 28, 2011,[13] and former Conservative MP John Cummins was acclaimed leader.[14]


  • Charles Wilson, March 1900-1903[2]
  • Richard McBride, 1903- December 1915
  • William John Bowser, December 1915 - August 1924
  • Robert Henry Pooley, August 1924 - November 1926 interim
  • Simon Fraser Tolmie, November 1926 - May 1936
  • Frank Porter Patterson, July 1936 - February 1938
  • Royal Lethington Maitland, September 1938 - March 1946
  • Herbert Anscomb, April 1946 - November 1952
  • Deane Finlayson, November 1952 - April 1961
  • Davie Fulton, January 1963 - April 1965
  • John Anthony St. Etienne DeWolf, June 1969 - November 1971
  • Derril Thomas Warren, November 1971 - September 1973
  • Dr. George Scott Wallace, December 1973 - July 1977
  • Victor Albert Stephens, October 1977 - February 1980
  • Brian Westwood, November 1980 - August 1982
  • Peter Pollen, March 1985 - August 1986
  • Peter B. Macdonald, July 1991 - August 1996
  • David Maurice Mercier, March 1997 - January 2001
  • Susan Power, January 2001 - 2002
  • Kenneth Edgar King, 2003 - 2004
  • Barry Edward Chilton, 2004 - September 2005
  • Wilfred Hanni, September 2005 - June 2009
  • Vacant, June 2009 - May 2011
  • John Cummins, May 2011 - present

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
  • After 1953, British Columbia returned to the "first past the post" electorial system.
1956-2005 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


  1. ^ "B.C. Conservatives join leadership race". 2011-01-14. Retrieved 2011-05-19. 
  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 Conservative Party Settles Legal Dispute", BC Conservative Party News Release, February 16, 2009
  6. ^ "Spurred by warhorses, B.C. Tories plot a comeback", Globe and Mail, December 28, 2010
  7. ^ Vancouver Sun, "B.C. Conservative leader leaves over party infighting", July 2, 2009[dead link]
  8. ^ "Bc Conservatives Appoint Former Commons House Leader To Chair Political Strategy | The Bc Conservative Party". 2010-04-20. Retrieved 2011-05-19. 
  9. ^ "Former Premier Brian Peckford Joins Conservative Advisors | The Bc Conservative Party". 2010-09-05. Retrieved 2011-05-19. 
  10. ^ "Former Premier Rita Johnston Joins Conservative Advisors | The Bc Conservative Party". 2010-09-16. Retrieved 2011-05-19. 
  11. ^ "International Governance And Democracy Expert Joins Bc Conservative Advisors | The Bc Conservative Party". 2010-09-24. Retrieved 2011-05-19. 
  12. ^ "Mp Cummins Joins Bc Conservative Advisory Group | The Bc Conservative Party". 2010-09-30. Retrieved 2011-05-19. 
  13. ^ Hui, Stephen (2011-01-10). "B.C. Conservative Party sets leadership convention for May 28". Retrieved 2011-05-19. 
  14. ^ Cummins named leader of B.C. Conservatives

See also

External links

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