Van Dongen jumps to B.C. Conservatives
VICTORIA – Abbotsford South MLA John van Dongen has quit the B.C. Liberal Party to join the rival B.C. Conservatives.
Van Dongen announced his decision Monday after question period in the legislature. He said he is concerned about the integrity of the government, and cited the decision to pay $6 million in legal fees for former government staffers Dave Basi and Bobby Virk after they pleaded guilty to breach of trust in the sale of BC Rail operations.
Van Dongen also cited the recent collapse of negotiations to sell naming rights to BC Place stadium to Telus Corp.
"There have been other lapses in proper accountability and I expect more to come," van Dongen told the legislature.
At a news conference with B.C. Conservative leader John Cummins, van Dongen said he has hired a lawyer at his own expense to investigate the BC Rail legal fees arrangement, and also Premier Christy Clark's involvement with the sale in 2002-03. He said Clark made "inconsistent" statements when she ran for the B.C. Liberal leadership about what she knew of the sale and the involvement of lobbyists.
Van Dongen was first elected in 1995, and re-elected as a B.C. Liberal in 1996, 2001, 2005 and 2009. He has held cabinet positions responsible for agriculture and public safety.
Cummins said he does not expect van Dongen to resign his seat and run as a B.C. Conservative in a by-election, a position Cummins supported during his time as an MP in Ottawa. Cummins said with the provincial election scheduled for May 2013, the voters of Abbotsford South will have their say soon enough.
Van Dongen will sit as an independent MLA, since four members are needed to be a recognized party in the B.C. legislature. His announcement comes as the B.C. Conservatives run in two by-elections in Port Moody-Coquitlam and Chilliwack Hope, vacated by retired B.C. Liberals MLAs Iain Black and Barry Penner.