Vindication appears to have arrived in the mail for South Surrey’s Dr. Allison Patton.
But the former prospective candidate for the BC Conservatives – who had her membership revoked in 2012 after challenging party leadership – says she’s not sure yet how to react to an unexpected apology letter from the party’s board of directors, and a suggestion she might work with the party in the future.
“I was very pleasantly pleased with the action of the board, but I had really put (the issue) behind me,” she told Peace Arch News. “I hadn’t given it much more thought.”
Acknowledging she is a “passionate personality,” Patton did not, however, rule out a return to the political arena.
“It’s a strong possibility – politics keep coming to us. Every few weeks there are things happening that ask you to be involved. If it happens it will be when I don’t have a spare moment… The timing will be just impossible, I’m sure.”
The May 8 letter from BC Conservatives president Ian MacDonald extended both an apology and an olive branch to Patton, who was also formerly president of the Surrey-White Rock constituency association.
Patton was one of three party dissidents who had their memberships revoked in October 2012 after they called publicly for the resignation of then-leader John Cummins, following a round of in-fighting within party ranks.
Cummins ultimately resigned after the B.C. election in May 2013, when the party – unrepresented in the legislature in the previous session – was unable to elect any candidates. The current party leader is Dan Brooks.
In his letter, MacDonald says the party has “seen many positive changes since 2012.”
He says the current board of directors is restoring her membership and offering a “reconciliation opportunity” by inviting Patton to work with the party in the future.
“We believe that the imprudent actions of the 2012 board have negatively impacted you and the others involved,” he writes. “For this we express our sincere regret and, as far as we are able, revoke the actions of the previous board.”
It’s a far cry, Patton agreed, from the terse missive she received from former party president Al Siebring in 2012, in which he said she had violated party bylaws by questioning Cummins’ leadership “both in the conventional and social media, and by various communications with party members.”
In announcing the provincial board’s revocation of her membership, Siebring said her actions had been “harmful to the unity, image and effectiveness of the party.”
Reached Thursday, Siebring – a city councillor in North Cowichan – declined to comment, noting he hasn’t been involved with the BC Conservatives for the past 18 months.
Asked if she considers the letter from MacDonald a vindication, Patton said “in a sense it is – it allows for closure and it’s a confirmation of what I felt.”
Patton – along with former Burnaby North constituency association president Arianne Eckardt and Burnaby businessman John Crocock, who had unsuccessfully campaigned for party vice-president – launched a lawsuit against the BC Conservatives in late 2012 following revocation of their memberships.
The suit has since been discontinued, Patton said, “without a cost basis to any of the parties.”
Internal turmoil in the party had emerged in August 2012 when Patton and several other members of the Surrey-White Rock association resigned from their posts. At that time, Patton cited her belief the BC Conservatives should be inclusive of all segments of society, with a particular emphasis on roles for women and youth.
She said then that she and other board members had resigned because “there were some appointments made in the party that posed some challenges for some of us, based on our future plans – when people have a history of views that we don’t agree with.”
Last week she confirmed she did not feel Cummins was the right person to lead the BC Conservatives, particularly after BC Liberal John van Dongen crossed the floor of the Legislature to sit as the first BC Conservative in the assembly, but subsequently left to sit as an independent.
“It appeared that there had been an opportunity that was lost, especially when van Dongen came along – that didn’t turn out very well,” Patton said.
– with files from Tracy Holmes