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Sturko quits BC United to join Conservative Party of B.C.

BC United noted that Sturko has attacked the B.C. Conservatives and their leader, John Rustad, accusing them of bullying and anti-LGBTQ hatred
Elenore Sturko, right, elected in the Surrey South byelection as a BC United candidate, is sworn in by clerk Kate Ryan-Lord at the legislature on Oct. 3, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Dirk Meissner

BC United MLA Elenore Sturko, who nine months ago demanded an “unequivocal apology” from Conservative Party of B.C. Lleader John Rustad for calling homosexuality a lifestyle, stood beside him Monday to announce she is joining his party.

Sturko, a former RCMP officer who is gay and a vocal defender of LGBTQ rights, announced her defection just days after BC United caucus chair Lorne Doerkson also jumped ship to the Conservatives.

Sturko, who represents Surrey South but will run in Surrey-Cloverdale, defended her change of heart on the Conservatives, whom she previously harshly criticized as being anti-LGBTQ.

She said the B.C. Conservatives will be a “big tent” of people with diverse ideas and backgrounds who will find common ground to defeat the governing NDP in the fall election.

“Yes, I’m a lesbian, but I’m also so much more,” said Sturko, who was elected in a byelection in 2022. “I’m a mother, I’m a person who needs health care in B.C. and I worry about affordability. I know that there are people who can’t make ends meet.”

Sturko said she’s concerned about things like whether her kids will ever be able to move out of her townhome to have a house of their own, or if they’ll even be able to afford groceries.

Rustad’s private member’s bill in April to use “biological sex” to classify athletes in publicly funded sports teams — effectively banning transgender athletes — never got off the ground, but Sturko said British Columbians who have concerns about such issues can’t just be dismissed.

“I think that there are people to whom this is a very important subject and they do want those discussions to take place,” said Sturko.

“But I made it clear to John that I’m not interested in supporting any legislation on any topic that would infringe upon the rights of British Columbians or Canadians.”

Sturko said she had changed her mind about Rustad’s stance on sexual orientation and gender identity curriculum in schools, which once saw her give Premier David Eby a standing ovation in the legislature when he told Rustad he should be ashamed of himself for focusing on it.

As education critic, Sturko said she heard a lot of concern about the school curriculum known as SOGI 123, saying it was delivered in different ways in different schools and in some cases eroded parental trust in public education.

Even the name SOGI has become divisive, said Sturko, adding everyone understands that every child and staff member should feel welcome and safe in schools — but the curriculum needs changes.

“I don’t think we’re gong to win their trust back without making changes,” said Sturko.

BC United Leader Kevin Falcon said he was shocked and disappointed by Sturko’s news on Monday, “especially going over to a party that she has long disavowed both to me and to our caucus as being too extremist.”

“I can guarantee you ­[voters] are not going to go for the extreme left of David Eby, nor the extreme right of John Rustad … and they are going to go for mainstream because I believe at the end of the day people want this province fixed,” said Falcon.

Adam Wilson, director of communications for BC United, said Sturko’s decision “to run for a party that is so out of line with her values and priorities” is shocking and opportunist.

“Why else would Elenore run on a slate of candidates who are COVID-19 conspiracy theorists, anti-LGBTQ+ rights, anti-choice and climate-change denialists?” Wilson said.

Falcon booted Rustad from the party caucus after Rustad cast doubt on climate-change science.

Sturko said she’s been talking for months about the need for the two right-of-centre parties to unite.

BC United is “not capturing the imagination of voters the way it should while the ­grassroots movement by the B.C. Conservatives is like ­nothing we’ve seen before,” she said.

An Angus Reid poll released last week showed the B.C. NDP leading among decided voters at 41 per cent, the Conservative Party of B.C. at 30 per cent, BC United at 16 per cent and the B.C. Greens at 11 per cent.

Merger talks in late May between BC United and the B.C. Conservatives collapsed with each party blaming the other.

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