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BC Liberal MLA leaves party in 'free fall' says BC Conservative candidate

The BC Conservative campaign in the Chilliwack-Hope byelection got a boost Monday with the defection of Abbotsford South MLA John van Dongen from the BC Liberal Party.

"It's great news," BC Conservative candidate John Martin crowed. "It's a boost to our party and to our campaign in Chilliwack-Hope."

"The Liberals are in free-fall and fading fast," he added. "There has to be someone credible to keep the NDP away, and the Liberals aren't going to be able to do it."

UFV political science department head Hamis Telford suggested van Dongen's departure may be the start of an "exodus" of backbench Liberals unhappy with the leadership of Premier Christy Clark.

"It's not terribly surprising Mr. van Dongen has jumped ... he was unable to conceal his dislike for Premier Clark," Telford said.

"More surprising," said Telford, was van Dongen's timing, just days after the byelection had been called by the Premier.

"I think (van Dongen) may well have been looking to give (the BC Conservatives) a boost," Telford said.

When Clark won the party's leadership, van Dongen told reporters that he would have to re-assess his future with the party.

Since then, there have been rumours that a push was underway to challenge van Dongen's nomination to run as the BC Liberal candidate in Abbotsford South in the next provincial election.

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