The BC Conservative candidate in this year's Chilliwack-Hope byelection announced Friday he is joining the BC Liberals and will seek the nomination in the Chilliwack riding for the provincial election in May.
A self-described "former rival" and "fierce critic," John Martin sat between retiring Chilliwack MLA John Les and Liberal byelection candidate Laurie Throness at a press conference to announced his defection.
"I'm excited and thrilled to be joining Christy Clark and the BC Liberal Party, and it's not after the election of another disastrous NDP government but this is to prevent one from happening," Martin said. "Simply put, I believe there is more that unites us than divides us."
Both Les and Throness welcomed Martin to the party and posed for photographs with a new party membership card.
"I salute your decision today to join the BC Liberal Party and work with us collectively to ensure that we keep a free enterprise coalition government in the province of British Columbia," Les said.
Martin finished third with 25 per cent of the vote in the April 19 Chilliwack-Hope byelection. Gwen O'Mahony won the riding for the NDP with 42 per cent, and Throness finished second with 32 per cent.
Martin said he had not told BC Conservative Party leader John Cummins about the defection in advance, adding "They know now."
Cummins issued a statement Friday about Martin's departure: "With regards to John Martin, who took our party to a third-place finish in last year's Chilliwack-Hope by-election, we wish him well in the future."
Martin joins the BC Liberals, a party he said in December 2011 was "self-destructing" and "absolutely don't deserve a fourth term to be reelected."
The UFV criminology professor and former Times columnist frequently compared the current BC Liberal government's policies to those of the NDP .
"Both the Liberals and NDP support policies that make life for ordinary British Columbians more expensive," Martin said in January. "Policies such as the carbon tax, increased ICBC premiums, higher MSP rates and increased BC Hydro bills."
Martin came to Friday's press conference prepared to respond to his former statements coming back at him.
"I have concerns and there are policies that I don't like and I think I can do a lot more toward addressing those and maybe even change some of those things from inside rather than outside with a third-place party," he said.
"We all know what I said in the byelection. I can't change who I am. I don't want to change who I am. I'm not changing any of my beliefs, however, I have revisited my views on which option people like me, small 'c' conservatives, what option do they have. It has become abundantly clear they have one option and one option only, and that is the BC Liberals."
In March of this year, Martin said he was "thrilled" that Abbotsford South MLA John van Dongen defected from the BC Liberals to the BC Conservatives.
When asked if he was now thrilled to join the Liberals, he said he was "ecstatic."
Martin, who is a barbecue enthusiast and competition pitmaster, even joked about the issue of his former remarks coming back at him.
"If anyone can make the crow I'm going to be eating taste good, I'm probably the guy to do it," he said.
Premier Christy Clark told the Globe and Mail that you have to be prepared to kiss and make up in politics.
"And we all have criticisms, fair enough," she said. "But there is something much bigger at stake here-and John Martin deserves a lot of credit for having recognized it-and that is the fate of our province."
The BC NDP were quick to point out many of the things Martin has said in the past about the party he has now joined.
"The news has taken us completely off guard given John's propensity to criticize the Liberal government," said Dan Coulter, president of Chilliwack-Hope NDP Constituency Association, in an emailed statement. "In the past he has referred to the Liberals as both deceitful and incompetent so as an NDP constituency association president and voter I think he needs to explain his sudden change of heart."
© Copyright 2013