si-bc-120921-john-martin

Former B.C. Conservative Candidate John Martin has defected to the B.C. Liberals and will run in John Les' Chilliwack riding, the party announced on Friday morning. (John Martin)

In a surprise move, former B.C. Conservative candidate John Martin has defected to the B.C. Liberals and will seek the party's nomination in John Les' Chilliwack riding.

Les announced in August he would not seek re-election. 

Martin, a criminologist at the University of the Fraser Valley, ran for the Conservatives in the April byelection in the neighbouring riding of Chilliwack-Hope, but finished third behind the NDP and Liberal candidates.

He says it's now clear to him that all the B.C. Conservatives will accomplish is to help elect an NDP government in the upcoming May 11 election.

"In 1975, Bill Bennett united the free enterprise coalition following the election of a disastrous NDP government. In 1997, Gordon Campbell united free enterprisers following Glen Clark's election. I don’t want to wait until Adrian Dix and the NDP are elected to unite forces. I have made this decision to help prevent that from happening," Martin said in a statement. 

His departure from the Conservatives comes as the upstart party prepares for their annual general meeting in Langley on Saturday, where their leader John Cummins may face a leadership review.

Martin is the most notable new candidate to sign on with the B.C. Liberal party after a string of resignations by sitting Liberal MLAs. Earlier Friday, former cabinet minister Colin Hansen became the 14th Liberal to announced he would not run again.

Martin still needs to win the Liberal party nomination at a candidate selection meeting in Chilliwack that has yet to be scheduled.

Liberals and Conservatives split vote

During the April byelection Martin declared the Liberal government untrustworthy and said voting for the Conservatives was the best way to hold them  accountable.

"The Liberal government has failed the people of British Columbia and has squandered trust with the public on issues such paying $6 million in legal fees for two convicted criminals (Basi and Virk) and the introduction of the HST shortly after the last election when they said it was not on the table," he said in an April campaign statement.

The byelection was won by New Democrats Gwen O'Mahony, who came up the middle with about 41 per cent of the popular vote. O'Mahony had run unsuccessfully in the riding twice before.

Martin split about 58 per cent of the vote with Laurie Throness from the Liberals, fulfilling warnings about dividing the "free enterprise" vote.

He says he believes the Liberals are now the best way to unite that free enterprise vote.

"Premier Christy Clark and the B.C. Liberals have demonstrated to me that they are open to new ideas and other points of view," said Martin.

"Since the by-election, they have reached out to British Columbians while the B.C. Conservatives have focused on internal battles."

Now by moving Martin to the Chilliwack seat that Les is vacating, the Liberals may be hoping to win both seats in the coming  election.