Besler follows Martin to BC Liberal camp

Former BC Conservative vice-president Ben Besler announces he's leaving the party, the third defection in recent weeks.

CHILLIWACK – Another high-profile BC Conservative has left that embattled political party to join the BC Liberals.

Ben Besler, former BC Conservative Party vice president, after failing to spark a review of John Cummins’ leadership, announced late Thursday that he’s joining the BC Liberals.

Besler could not immediately be reached Friday for comment, but in a statement he said he has been “witness to a dismembering of the BC Conservative party’s infrastructure, the squandering of party resources and a ‘my way of the highway’ approach by leadership.”

And with Abbotsford-Mission MLA John van Dongen’s decision to leave the BC Conservatives to sit as an independent MLA, Besler said the BC Liberal Party is “the only viable free enterprise party in British Columbia.”

“I believe that the BC Liberals, under the leadership of Christy Clark, are genuine in their offering of an olive branch to conservative-minded British Columbians, like me, who have previously found themselves distanced from the party.”

Besler said he began to see the BC Liberal party “in a new light” after he was introduced to BC Liberal MLAs by John Martin, the BC Conservative Party’s candidate who ran unsuccessfully in the Chilliwack-Hope byelection.

Martin has also left the BC Conservatives to run as the BC Liberal candidate in the Chilliwack riding, now held by retiring BC Liberal MLA John Les.

Les said he believes BC Conservatives were “quite disappointed” with the party’s third-place showing in the byelection and “at that point many started to wonder if the BC Conservatives were just a flash in the pan.”

Les said he is pleased that it appears a free-enterprise coalition is “re-coalescing” in B.C., no matter what the party label, to stop a “socialist” NDP government from being elected next year.

“Every vote they (BC Conservatives) get is a danger for us,” Les said. “We still have a lot of hard work to do. We still have some ground to make up.”