Diane Janzen at Chilliwack City Council in 2011 before she resigned to run for the federal Liberals (left), and John Martin when he was a BC Conservative candidate at an all-candidates meeting beside Gwen O’Mahony of the NDP. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)

Diane Janzen at Chilliwack City Council in 2011 before she resigned to run for the federal Liberals (left), and John Martin when he was a BC Conservative candidate at an all-candidates meeting beside Gwen O’Mahony of the NDP. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)

OPINION: Who exactly is the right ‘right’ in this election?

An explainer on some of the last decade of drama among BC Liberals and Conservatives in Chilliwack

Are you confused about provincial politics in the Chilliwack electoral district?

Don’t be. It’s simple.

You see, BC Liberal candidate John Martin used to be a BC Conservative, and is a fiscal conservative.

BC Conservative candidate Diane Janzen used to be a federal Liberal, and a BC Liberal, and is also a fiscal conservative.

The NDP candidate Dan Coulter is also the president of the party’s riding association and chair of the Chilliwack school board. The Green candidate Tim Cooper is an engineering physics professor at UFV.

There is also Andrew Coombes for the Libertarians, and Independent Josue Anderson.

Got it? OK, back to the first two, Martin and Janzen are where it gets interesting.

The most recent story is that Janzen spent much of the last year or so urging people to join the BC Liberals so she could challenge Martin for the nomination. As the election was called, the BC Liberals put the kibosh on that, and appointed Martin as the candidate. Janzen then jumped to the Conservatives.

• READ MORE: Diane Janzen won’t be running for election under BC Liberal banner

But let’s go back in time for some context that newcomers to Chilliwack may not know, and others may have forgotten.

It was nine years ago next month, on Nov. 24, 2011, when then Chilliwack-Hope BC Liberal MLA Barry Penner announced he would step down to take a job as a senior partner with a Vancouver law firm.

That triggered a byelection.

Then BC Conservative leader John Cummins said the party had a “very recognizable” name to run in the byelection. That name was University Fraser Valley criminology professor, and newspaper columnist, John Martin.

“We’re not in this to come second,” Cummins said. “We are in this to win. I think this is a small ‘c’ conservative neck of the woods, and I think that given that we really are the only small ‘c’ conservative party in British Columbia, our platform will certainly resonate with the folks here.”

In an interview with Martin in December 2011, he explained to me why he was running for the BC Conservatives: “The BC Liberals absolutely don’t deserve a fourth term to be re-elected,” he said. “I’m a small ‘c’ conservative and the Liberals don’t represent me anymore.”

That same Chilliwack Times story mentioned – you guessed it – Diane Janzen who had finished a distant third as a Liberal in the federal election just a few months prior with 10.8 per cent of the vote. Janzen was going to seek the nomination for the BC Liberals to replace Penner, but she changed her mind. She told me in 2011 that Chilliwack’s right-of-centre voters should be wary of Cummins and his party.

“A vote for the BC Conservatives is a vote for the NDP. Period,” Janzen said. “The right-of-centre vote has been firmly in the BC Liberal camp and it needs to stay there… . Whoever is chosen will have to make sure that person appeals to the right end of the spectrum.”

• READ MORE: No byelection to replace Janzen, says council – 2011

• READ MORE: John Martin seeking BC Conservative nomination in Chilliwack-Hope byelection – 2011

Are you still with me?

Cummins was right about one thing in that April 19, 2012 byelection in Chilliwack-Hope: His party didn’t finish second. Martin finished third behind BC Liberal Laurie Throness who was second, with both of those small ‘c’ conservatives losing the riding to the NDP’s Gwen O’Mahony.

Of course, NDP power in the riding was short-lived as Throness handily won back the seat in the general election a year later, but it brought to the forefront the controversial topic of vote-splitting. Greens are often criticized by New Democrats for supposedly splitting the vote on the left, and clearly in the 2012 byelection that’s what happened on the right.

Janzen’s new motto she’s been using on social media: “Don’t split the right, vote right.”

Which begs the question: Who is the right right?

They say that leopards can’t change their spots, but history shows us that politicians can always change their stripes.

Will the right split the vote again in 2020? Maybe Do the NDP and Greens similarly create a vote-splitting dilemma for left-of-centre voters? Likely.

I wouldn’t make any predictions in an election in 2020, a year when just about anything could happen.


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