Tycoons eye Stockwell Day for B.C. Conservative leadership
Former B.C. Liberal leader Gordon Wilson has bad news for John Cummins.
According to Wilson, there is agitation in influential business circles to ditch Cummins as the B.C. Conservative top honcho, and replace him with someone like Stockwell Day.
“If voices that are currently rumbling on Howe Street have their way, Cummins will be gone and the Conservatives will have a new leader with a big bankroll,” Wilson told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview.
Wilson emphasized that Day is only one of those being mentioned as a likely new champion of the right, which has split between Cummins’s Conservatives and Premier Christy Clark’s ruling B.C. Liberal Party. But he stressed that Day carries a lot of weight.
“Stockwell Day has a fairly sizable following in British Columbia,” Wilson said. “It’s a well-known name. And that in itself is very, very helpful, because if they have to pull this off, they have to pull this off with somebody who has a name that is fairly recognizable, and somebody who has a track record of being able to get elected.”
Day currently runs a Vancouver-based consulting firm, sits on Telus’s board of directors, and serves as an adviser to the McMillan law firm. The former Okanagan-Coquihalla MP did not grant an interview to the Straight before deadline.
Day’s conservative credentials are stellar. In 2000, he became the head of the federal Canadian Alliance and leader of the Official Opposition in Parliament. In 2003, the Canadian Alliance and the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada merged to become the Conservative Party of Canada.
Day was elected nine times provincially and federally over 25 years in Alberta and B.C. In 2010, he was appointed president of the Treasury Board. He did not run in the 2011 federal election.
“The other thing with Stockwell Day, which is important, is that his last riding was an Interior riding, and the Okanagan is an area that obviously Conservatives want to build on,” Wilson said. “It is traditionally a fairly conservative voting constituency.”
Day’s social conservatism is well-documented in Marci McDonald’s 2010 book The Armageddon Factor: The Rise of Christian Nationalism in Canada. McDonald reports that Day is part of the Watchmen for the Nations, a Kelowna-based Christian group founded in reaction to Vancouver’s hosting of the Gay Games in 1990.
On September 2, the Toronto Star quoted former Conservative B.C. MP John Reynolds saying that Day “would be an asset any time, anywhere”. However, the ex–Official Opposition house leader also said that he doesn’t foresee Day leaving the private sector soon.
According to Wilson, many business leaders believe that Cummins “represents the past generation of voters, and he’s not going to resonate with current voters”.
“The rumblings that I hear from people who are on that particular side of Howe Street are saying, ‘This guy can’t do it. Christy [Clark] can’t do it. She’s really blown it badly. What are our options?’ ” he said. And these are to bring in a new leader to the B.C. Conservative Party and market it as the “only free-enterprise option that’s going to work”.
“If they do it effectively, they’re going to annihilate Christy Clark and the Liberals,” Wilson continued. “And they may very well split that vote [on the right] down enough to become the Opposition, and hold [Adrian] Dix [and the B.C. NDP] to four years. Very few believe they can do it sufficiently, effectively to actually stop Dix’s election. They think they can hold him to a much smaller majority than he might otherwise get.”
The B.C. Conservative Party did not make Cummins or any spokesperson available for an interview before the Straight’s deadline.
Paul Ramsey, a former B.C. NDP cabinet minister, is uncertain about what Day may accomplish.
“He’s well-known, more so than Mr. Cummins,” Ramsey told the Straight by phone. “But, on the other hand, I think people right now are looking at the Conservative Party just as an alternative for those who are walking away from the Liberals. And they’re not actually thinking who the leader is.”