A former British Columbia Liberal cabinet minister has joined the provincial Conservatives, becoming the party’s sole MLA, seven months after being dumped from the Opposition caucus for questioning the role of carbon dioxide in climate change.
John Rustad, who has been representing the northern B.C. riding of Nechako Lakes as an independent, said Thursday the B.C. Conservatives now best represent his political views and goals.
“I’m not doing this certainly to try to hurt any political party,” he told reporters at the legislature. “The reason I’ve decided to do this is the same reason why I got into politics, because I see that there is something wrong and I want to change it and I want to try to make a difference.”
Liberal Leader Kevin Falcon said he dumped Rustad from the Liberal caucus last August for his public statements and social media posts suggesting climate change is not caused by carbon dioxide emissions.
Falcon said Rustad “was there when we brought in North America’s first revenue-neutral carbon tax.”
“When he started changing his position on that and tweeting out things that were in denial of climate change as reality, I said to John, ‘John if you’ve changed your position, we can have that debate and discuss that in caucus as we’re always willing to do, but you are not going to be out there publicly doing that.'”
A BC Liberal government introduced a carbon tax in 2008.
Falcon said the Liberals have always recognized climate change as real and have consistently introduced and supported policies to fight climate change.
The Liberal leader said he told Rustad, “if you can’t find the discipline to continuing supporting the position we’ve always had as a party, you are not going to be part of this party.”
First elected in 2005, Rustad has held cabinet posts in former BC Liberal governments, including forests and Indigenous relations.
Conservative Party of B.C. Leader Trevor Bolin says in a statement that he gladly welcomes Rustad and looks forward to working with him.
The Conservatives did not elect a candidate in the 2020 B.C. election.
The party received about 36,000 votes provincewide, representing less than two per cent of the all votes.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 16, 2023.