British Columbia

B.C. Conservatives drop candidate amid misinformation claims

The B.C. Conservative Party has dropped a controversial Denman Island doctor as a candidate for Ladysmith-Oceanside after his views on COVID-19 and vaccines circulated online on Wednesday.

Dr. Stephen Malthouse was suspended from practising 2 years ago

A social media post announcing Dr. Stephen Malthouse as a candidate for the B.C. Conservative Party
The B.C. Conservative Party dropped Dr. Stephen Malthouse as a candidate shortly after they named him as a candidate in the riding of Ladysmith-Oceanside. (Conservative Party of B.C./X)

The Conservative Party of B.C. has dropped a controversial Denman Island doctor as a candidate in this fall's provincial election after his views on COVID-19 and vaccines circulated online on Wednesday.

Within hours of his nomination announcement, Stephen Malthouse was cut as a candidate in the riding of Ladysmith-Oceanside.

Malthouse was suspended from practising by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of B.C. two years ago. 

According to the college's website, he remains suspended.

"We are a new party, we have grown at a record pace, but some mistakes are bound to happen. Unfortunately, we nominated a couple of candidates who ultimately weren't the right fit for our team," said B.C. Conservative Party president Aisha Estey.

Malthouse repeatedly claimed that COVID-19 is no more deadly than the flu and that vaccines are more dangerous than the novel coronavirus.

He publicized these scientifically unsupported ideas in videos, at rallies against public health measures and in open letters.

A screenshot of a tweet announcing Dr. Stephen Malthouse as the B.C. Conservative candidate for Ladysmith-Oceanside.
A screenshot of a tweet announcing Dr. Stephen Malthouse as the B.C. Conservative candidate for Ladysmith-Oceanside. He was dropped as a candidate shortly after the announcement. (Conservative Party of B.C./X)

Recently, a nurse accused of spreading misinformation about vaccines was also dropped as a B.C. Conservative candidate.

Jan Webb had been announced as a B.C. Conservative candidate for Esquimalt-Colwood earlier this year but was then removed due to tweets promoting vaccine misinformation.

The B.C. Conservatives did not address the vetting process whereby Malthouse became a candidate. Information regarding his views is available online.

Malthouse is known for spreading false information about COVID-19 and has been linked to a website selling fake vaccine exemption certificates and had been suspended from practising medicine.

UBC political scientist Stewart Prest pointed out that in order to become the official opposition, the B.C. Conservatives need more appeal to capture voters.

"They're going to need to be able to appeal to middle of the road British Columbians as well who are not really going to be interested in voting for a party of vaccine skeptics, for instance," Prest said.

He said the incidents involving the two candidates could leave voters with questions about the party's vetting process for candidates, which could lead some wondering "what other corners are they willing to cut?"

Prest said the party is poised to gain support.

A Mainstreet Research poll released last week showed the B.C. NDP with 39.6 per cent support while 34.2 per cent said they would vote for the B.C. Conservatives. The Opposition B.C. United had 14.2 per cent support and the B.C. Green Party had 9.6 per cent.

"It is no longer a third- or fourth-place party," Prest said of the B.C. Conservatives. "It is a party with real support and the polls behind it, and as a result its choice for candidates to run around the province are going to come under more scrutiny than perhaps they are used to."

The provincial election is set for Oct. 19.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Meera Bains

Reporter/Editor

Meera Bains is CBC's Provincial Affairs reporter. Contact: @meerakati, meera.bains@cbc.ca

With files from Bethany Lindsay