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B.C. Conservative campaign manager ‘goofed’ in firing candidates

British Columbia Conservative party leader John Cummins looks on while waiting for by-election results at Conservative candidate John Martin's campaign office in Chilliwack, B.C., on Thursday April 19, 2012.

DARRYL DYCK/The Globe and Mail

The B.C. Conservative Party's campaign manager and its leader are at odds over the party's decision to ditch two candidates during the recent provincial election over controversial comments made on Twitter and in newspaper columns.

In a posting on his blog, campaign manager Jeff Bridge says he "goofed" in firing Ian Tootill, the party's candidate in Vancouver-False Creek, as well as Mischa Popoff, who was running in Boundary-Similkameen.

Mr. Bridge said he should have better handled the media on the issue of a Twitter posting by Mr. Tootill. The candidate responded to a comment about Mein Kampf by asking "Who was to blame – Hitler or the people who acted on his words?"

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"What I should have said to all concerned," Mr. Bridge said, "was this: Ian was merely asking a question and the intent of the question was blown out of proportion. If you don't like what he said (I am not a fan of invoking the H word), then don't vote for him.

"Instead, in the heat of the moment, I canned him. Wrong decision. I let him down and the party."

He expressed similar regrets about Mr. Popoff, suggesting that if his comments were good enough for the newspaper that published them, that should have been the end of the matter. Mr. Popoff came under fire over comments about single mothers.

"Tootill and Popoff deserve an apology from the guy that led the campaign and fired them," he said.

Mr. Bridge also wrote that he stood by the dispatching of two candidates, one over allegations of impaired driving and another who made derogatory remarks about B.C. Premier Christy Clark.

B.C. Conservative Leader John Cummins, while describing the issue as "old news," said the pace of the election forced the party to make quick decisions and that he stood by the removal of all four candidates.

In an interview on Monday, he said "there's no slack" for conservatives on such issues.

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The Conservatives received only 5 per cent of votes in the May 14 election. They did not win any seats.

Mr. Cummins, 71, said he is leading the party "for the time being" to help it "in the near future," and will make his further intentions known to the board of the party soon.

But he said he would not otherwise discuss his plans before talking to the board first.

Mr. Bridge said in an interview Monday that Mr. Cummins was entitled to his views.

"I was the leader of the campaign and a good leader owns up to his mistakes and takes ownership of them and that's what I'm doing."

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About the Author
B.C. reporter

Ian Bailey is a Vancouver-based reporter for The Globe and Mail.  He covers politics and general news. Prior to arriving at The Globe and Mail, he reported from Toronto and St. John’s for The Canadian Press.  He has also covered British Columbia for CP, The National Post and The Province. More

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