Former B.C. ag minister dumps Liberals

B.C. dairyman-turned-cabinet minister John van Dongen has quit the province’s governing Liberals to become the lone MLA for the long-faded provincial Conservatives.

Van Dongen was then-premier Gordon Campbell’s agriculture, food and fisheries minister from 2001 to 2005, except for a brief hiatus in 2003 during a police investigation over an aquaculture file he handled.

"I am energized to be part of a principled, honest and growing party that offers the people of B.C. a credible, free enterprise option in the next provincial election," he said in a Conservative press release Monday.

The party, whose provincial-level roots date back to 1903, had no seats in the provincial legislature until van Dongen’s defection. The provincial Conservatives’ current leader is John Cummins, a former Reform and Conservative MP for the Delta, B.C. area (1993-2011).

"I am excited to work with (van Dongen) as we reach out to British Columbians and share our message of fiscal responsibility, ending the catch-and-release justice system, and reducing the influence of special interests in the political process," Cummins said in Monday’s release.

After Christy Clark replaced Campbell as premier last year, van Dongen, then solicitor general and public safety minister, was dropped from her cabinet.

Van Dongen, a dairyman north of Abbotsford before entering politics, previously sat on the board of directors for the B.C. Dairy Foundation and the B.C. Federation of Dairymen’s Association, as well as the federal Farm Debt Review Board (1986-92). He also previously served as a vice-president on the board of Agrifoods International Co-operative.

He first came to the legislature through a byelection in Abbotsford in 1995 and was re-elected in 1996, 2001, 2005 and 2009.

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