When asked for his prediction about the next provincial election in B.C., John Cummins doesn’t hesitate.
“After the next provincial election we are going to see a Conservative government in British Columbia,” he said. “Absolutely.”
Between now and then though, said the leader of the upstart party, there remains a whole lot of work to do.
Some of that work was on tap in Parksville Saturday, where members of the Central Island constituency associations gathered in the conference room at the Travelodge to map their path forward.
“It’s a meeting to update the boards in this area of the island on some of the issues and things happening in the party,” Cummins said in an interview. “What I am telling them is that the party is strong. We are doing very well in the polls and we have two outstanding candidates representing us in the upcoming by-elections, so we are really thrilled with our progress. It’s been quite a while since we have been in such a strong position.”
Much of the credit for that progress, he said, can be laid at the feet of the governing Liberals and their handling of the HST issue.
“We have momentum right now,” he said. “What has changed is the disgust level of the people with the BC Liberals has risen. The latest mishandling of this whole HST boondoggle has upset British Columbians and people simply don’t know what the agenda is here and what are the steps. When are we going to get rid of this thing?”
Cummins said the construction industry has put many projects on hold until they get certainty on the HST issue, as they don’t want to build something prior to the reversal of the HST decision when it could be done for less at a later date.
“It has been hurtful to the province of British Columbia the way this thing has been handled,” Cummins said. “If it had been the NDP that had brought in this tax and then went to referendum, asking what they should do, youcan just imaging the ki-yiing that would have come from the Liberals. The public sees through that. This has played a big role.”
Although Cummins sat as an MP in Stephen Harper’s Conservative government in Ottawa, he stressed his party is not “Harper-lite,” but rather an independent entity that shares some of the same values as their federal counterparts.
“We are independent from the federal party. That has to be made clear,” he said. “We are not looking for an endorsement from the federal party and our view is that the best thing they can do for us at this point is to stay out of the fray. Our view of the world is British Columbia’s view of the world. We look out for British Columbia, but from a small ‘c’ conservative perspective.”
That said, Cummins said he supports the federal party’s Omnibus Crime Bill, currently making its way through the House of Commons. Although some provincial leaders have expressed concern about having to pay the cost of building, staffing and running new prisons to accommodate the expected increase in inmates across the country, Cummins said he’s willing to pay the tab.
“The issue here is that one of the primary responsibilities of the provincial government is to provide adequate funding for the justice system,” he said. “We all want safer streets. We all want to see people who commit these crimes, who deserve incarceration to be dealt with in an appropriate manner. If a provincial govenrment tells me we can’t afford to fund that, this tells me there is something terribly wrong with their priorities.”
The economy is also a priority for Cummins, who stressed that while many British Columbians believe they have it good, things could be much better under a Conservative government.
“In British Columbia we always think we are doing pretty well, sitting in one of the prettiest places you could live in, but the fact of the matter is the average family in B.C. earns less than a family in other provinces, so we are not doing as well as we think.”
Cummins said the claim by the BC Liberals that the province has low taxes rings hollow, when he said the taxes paid by the average family here are higher than in any province west of Quebec.
“The average family here pays higher taxes than one in NDP-run Manitoba,” he said. “That’s a fact. We have to lower our taxes and spend our tax dollars more wisely. We have to create good-paying jobs in forestry, mining and high tech. We need to start looking at things differently in this province and we have to create real jobs. We are not doing that.”
The real difference between his Conservatives and the governing Liberals, he said, is clear.
“We are a free enterprise party, while they are tax and spend liberals,” he said. “It’s as simple as that. We are driving people out of this province. We are highly taxed and our incomes are low. We are not going to address this with tax and spend liberals.”