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B.C. MLAs crossing the floor face big risks, political experts say


Two B.C. United MLAs have switched to the BC Conservatives in recent days, a move political experts say can come with big risks.

“You’re going to be criticized merceilessly for abandoning your party, for abandoning your principles,” said B.C. pollster and political watcher, Mario Canseco of Research Co.

Still, in the past few days, BC United MLAs Lorne Doerkson and Elenore Sturko crossed the floor to the BC Conservatives.

In Sturko’s case the gamble was extra big. She's a bright star and member of the LGBTQ2S+ community, leaving her party to run for one with candidates openly critcal of that community.

"It's the kind of thing that can come back to haunt you in debates," said Canseco on Tuesday, the day after Sturko announced her move.

She's hardly the first to take the political plunge. Winston Churchill famously crossed the floor multiple times, emerging as one of history's great leaders.

Closer to home, B.C.'s longest serving current MLA, BC United's Mike De Jong, who announced he's leaving provincial politics and running for the federal Conservatives, has seen the move flop more often than soar.

"Historically these things tend to not work out very well for either the politician who makes the shift or the party they make the move to," said De Jong Tuesday.

A lot can depend on timing of the move and the politician's motivations for doing it.

Federal MP for Vancouver Kingsway, David Emerson, sparked outrage and an unsuccessful recall campaign when he left the federal Liberals for a cabinet post with the Harper Conservatives. He made the move right after the election and didn’t run in the next one.

"Timing is important in showbusiness and business and in politics," notes Hamish Telford, a political science professor at the University of the Fraser Valley.

Canseco said the strength of the party the candidate is joining is another factor.

For example, former MLA Gordon Wilson crossed the floor for a cabinet post with the NDP. He lost the next election, when the NDP were reduced to two seats.

"It didn’t work out for him and obviously didnt work out for the NDP in the 2001 election," noted De Jong.

Sturko has jumped to a surging party but may face a tough race when she runs in the Surrey-Cloverdale riding this fall. Sturko will be up against BC United star Claudine Storness-Bliss, who is a doctor at Surrey Memorial Hospital, and incumbent NDP MLA Mike Starchuk. 

"It’s definitely going to be one of the ridings to watch," Canseco said. Top Stories

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