The B.C. Conservatives are still struggling with infighting, and its leader has had enough so he's issued an ultimatum.
"Those few but vocal party members who are critical of my leadership and do not support me have until ... noon, Wednesday, to either get on-side or quit our party and join another," said party leader John Cummins in a Thanksgiving Sunday press release.
The provincial party will refund the membership fees of any person who leaves, Cummins said. The party will also return any financial donations made within the last year.
The tactic has raised eyebrows among some, but Kamloops party executives strongly agree with forcing the dissidents' hand.
"I think it's about time," said Alan Forseth, B.C. Conservatives regional director for Kamloops. "John Cummins has done exactly what needs to happen right now."
Forseth said he doesn't anticipate resignations among the 150 members from both Kamloops ridings. He's heard only three people express an interest in changing leaders.
"But nobody that's calling for any drastic measures. I think pretty much the people are behind John Cummins," he said.
The dissention is coming primarily from a group of ultra right wing members who want to see more extreme calls for budget cuts, said Peter Sharp, Kamloops-South Thompson constituency vice-president.
More than 70 per cent of the 245 party members who voted turned down the option to review Cummins's leadership during the annual convention in September, which would have forced him to step down.
But the victory was short-lived, with the Tories' only sitting MLA, John Van Dongen, quitting in protest. He now sits in the legislature as an Independent.
A group calling itself Friends of the B.C. Conservative Party, led by then-party vice-president Ben Besler, headed the rival group.
Besler left the party last week, joining the B.C. Liberals.
"You know I have been in conversations with the BC Liberal party for the past few weeks," he told Vancouver radio station CKNW at the time. "The reality is that I had made a conscious decision to leave the BC Conservative party. I have completely lost faith in that party as it is well documented."
Party President Al Siebring said the party encourages open discussion and a diversity of opinion.
But he said the leadership issue has been settled and he doesn't want the party to be distracted by a small group of dissidents.
He said in an interview a letter has been floating around still calling into question Cummins' leadership.
"Fundamentally, to me, the question is can we continue to move forward with this sniping from the sidelines? No, we don't want to do that," he said.
DAILY NEWS/CANADIAN PRESS