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Nechako Lakes MLA John Rustad crosses the floor to B.C. Conservatives

Rustad was kicked out of BC Liberal caucus for views questioning climate change
MLA John Rustad in Victoria May 17, 2018. Photography by John Lehmann

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 Thursday (Feb. 16) in the legislature. Rustad said his change in party membership is immediate, but he technically will have to remain an independent.

Rustad is not stranger to controversy. BC Liberal leader Kevin Falcon had kicked him out of the caucus in August 2022 after boosting a Facebook 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 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 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.

RELATED: Nechako Lakes MLA John Rustad booted from BC Liberal caucus for questioning climate change

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 BC would gain official status if another member were to cross the floor and join Rustad.

Falcon said he is not worried about another BC 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 BC Liberal MLA to cross the floor was John van Dongen in March 2012. Six months after joining the conservatives, he left the party and became an independent.