MLA John Rustad isn’t sitting as an independent anymore.
Rustad, who has represented the riding of Nechako Lakes since 2009, has joined the Conservative Party of BC.
Rustad made the announcement Feb. 16, and said his change in party membership is immediate, but he technically will have to remain an independent.
Rustad is no stranger to controversy and became an independent after BC Liberal leader Kevin Falcon had kicked him out of that party’s caucus in August 2022 after boosting a social media post that doubted the climate change. He also recently questioned the current vaccination mandate for public health-care workers.
MLAs should first and foremost represent their constituents to the party and the province, Rustad said.
“That’s the direction the Conservative Party wants to go.”
Rustad said the Conservatives’ plan is to present voters with a renewed coalition party, adding that B.C. needs to be “a province that understands the importance of fighting for personal freedoms, good jobs for working people, and lower costs of living for families.”
Conservative Party leader Trevor Bolin applauded Rustad’s decision.
“As the leader, former candidate and proud member of the Conservative Party of BC, I gladly welcome John Rustad to our team,” he said. “I have watched John both on a local level, in his own riding, as well as a provincial level. I look forward to working with John, and I’m excited for what the future holds.”
The provincial Conservative party has gone through various changes over the years, winning a mere 35,902 votes, or 1.91 per cent, across 19 ridings in the 2020 provincial election.
Rustad told reporters he wants to help build the party but has no plans to actively recruit other members of the BC Liberal caucus to join him to gain official party status with bumps in salaries and access to additional resources.
The Conservative Party of B.C. would gain official status if another member were to cross the floor and join Rustad. Falcon said he is not worried about another B.C. Liberal joining Rustad.
“He can go out to the B.C. Conservatives and he can do his climate denial over there and see where it gets him,” said Falcon. “At the end of the day, I know most British Columbians believe climate change is real, that we need to tackle it, but that we need to do it in a way that gets meaningful results.”
The last B.C. Liberal MLA to leave its caucus was John van Dongen in March 2012. After joining the Conservatives, he left after six months to sit as an independent.