B.C. politics: Expert examines likelihood of a merger

As the BC Conservatives surge in the polls ahead of BC United, there’s a renewed push to have the two right-of-centre parties join forces.

Earlier this week, Abacus Data said its latest survey showed John Rustad’s Conservatives polled at 34 per cent. David Eby’s NDP, meanwhile, was only slightly ahead, at 40 per cent.

Kevin Falcon’s BC United — formerly the BC Liberals — polled at a distant third with 13 per cent support, while the Greens were at 10 per cent.

Results of the poll displayed on a chart.
Abacus Data surveyed 1,000 eligible voters in B.C. from May 6 to May 9. (Courtesy Abacus Data)

Hamish Telford, a political scientist at the University of the Fraser Valley, says a formal merger between the Conservatives and BCU seems unlikely before the Oct. 19 provincial election.

“I would be surprised if they were going to be able to pull off anything major. I think the chances of a merger are really very slim — there simply isn’t time to merge the two parties, write a new constitution, select a new leader, I’m not even sure they would want to go through that exercise,” he told Now You Know host Rob Snow Wednesday.

“BC United has a couple of dozen seats in the legislature, they’re going to want their incumbents to run in those seats, but those are the seats that the BC Conservatives think they have the strongest chances of winning, too. Logistically, I think the options are certainly difficult and perhaps impossible, given the timeframe.

Even if the parties waited until after the provincial election, it would depend on the results of the vote, Telford adds.

“If the BC Conservatives — if the polls hold up — get a couple of dozen seats and are the substantial opposition, and BC United is wiped off the map, well, the issue is settled. If they come back with sort of a split number of seats, then they can talk about merging or cooperating together in the legislature. So it really depends on the results at that juncture,” he explained.

There are reports that former BC Liberal Premier Gordon Campbell is being asked to bring the two sides together. Both Falcon and Rustad served in Campbell’s cabinet.

-With files from Charles Brockman and Srushti Gangdev

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