George Heyman questions why NDP provincial executive has delayed Vancouver-Fairview nomination
At the end of the leader's speech at the B.C. NDP convention today, Adrian Dix announced the names of all the party's nominated candidates across the province.
There was a reference to Judy Darcy, who's running in New Westminster, as a great Canadian. Dix let on that he knew the candidate in Surrey-Tynehead, Raj Hundal, since Hundal was a child. And one of the biggest applauses came for former Port Moody mayor Joe Trasolini, who will run in an upcoming by-election.
But one prominent New Democrat—former B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union president George Heyman—was not on Dix's list.
That's because the NDP provincial executive has refused to approve the Vancouver-Fairview NDP constituency association's request to hold a nomination meeting on March 29, 2012.
Heyman, now the executive director of the Sierra Club of B.C., is the only declared candidate for the NDP nomination in the constituency, which is represented by B.C. Liberal cabinet minister Margaret MacDiarmid.
"If there are people in the party who are delaying a nomination so other people could enter at a more opportune time, I would say that would be inappropriate," Heyman told the Georgia Straight on the convention floor.
He mentioned that he's not sure why the party has not processed the association's request to allow a nomination meeting on March 29.
"I know there is some considerable frustration among New Democrats in Vancouver-Fairview and we would like to know that our meeting is going ahead and that the candidates who are running—whoever they are in addition to me—can get on with the campaign and get on with building the party in Vancouver-Fairview."
B.C. NDP president Moe Sihota told the Straight by phone that in September, the party placed a moratorium on nominations across the province until April 1, 2012.
"We had anticipated an election in September," Sihota said. "When that did not happen, we put out a freeze so that we could just take a bit of a breather and assess how we were doing on the balance of nominations that we had to fill. So in the case of Fairview, it got caught in that freeze."
There's a curious wrinkle to the Vancouver-Fairview NDP nomination. The party's provincial secretary, Jan O'Brien, is a longtime resident of the constituency with her husband, Vancouver councillor Geoff Meggs.
In August, Meggs told the Straight that he hadn't ruled out seeking the NDP nomination in Vancouver-Fairview, even though he was running for reelection as a Vancouver councillor in November.
Sihota told the Straight that O'Brien is not participating with the party's table officers in determining the date of the Vancouver-Fairview nomination.
"You would want all your candidates in by December 2012, obviously, because you need four or five months to be out there doing your fundraising and your riding preparation and your candidate door-knocking and the like," Sihota said. "I would suspect most ridings will be done [nominating candidates] in the calendar year 2012 after the freeze is lifted."
Heyman, however, said that in the case of Vancouver-Fairview, the party should have a candidate in place well in advance of the May 2013 election.
"I think the key point is we have a sitting cabinet minister in Fairview," he noted. "It's not a seat we've won very many times. We have a little over a year to door-knock and work to win that for New Democrats. That's not going to happen by a last-minute campaign. I think New Democrats in Fairview deserve to work and build around a candidate, whether that's me or anyone else."
When the Straight pointed out this concern to Sihota, he responded that the party will "have a nomination concluded in that riding to give ample time for a candidate to establish themselves with voters".
Meggs couldn't be reached for comment because he was attending a lecture as this story was being prepared.
The Vancouver councillor was the B.C. government's director of communications when Glen Clark was NDP premier in the late 1990s. During that period, Dix was Clark's principal secretary.
"I know the leader and Geoff have a long relationship," Heyman acknowledged. "I would expect the party leadership to let the process unfold. I have a very long history in the party as well. I would encourage the party executive and the president to deal with Fairview's request for a nomination meeting on face value and on the constituency's time frame—and not on a time frame that best suits me or best suits any other potential candidate. If the meeting continues to be delayed, I think that would be inappropriate and I would work very hard with the executive of Fairview to get the meeting approved so that we can choose a candidate, whether it's me or anyone else who wishes to represent Vancouver-Fairview."
One member of the constituency executive, CUPE Local 15 president Paul Faoro, told the Straight earlier this year that he was interested in the Vancouver-Fairview NDP nomination.
At the convention, Faoro reiterated that he's considering entering the race, but has not declared his candidacy.
He also revealed that he has put forward a motion for the constituency to continue looking for candidates, including women, to represent the party in the next election.
"If we're going to pick a representative for Vancouver-Fairview, let's make sure that we explore all the possibilities," he said.
A recently retired city councillor, George Chow, also lives in Vancouver-Fairview. Last month, he lost the NDP nomination to Gabriel Yiu in Vancouver-Fraserview.
Faoro said that he hasn't spoken to Meggs since the November 19 election, but noted that the two have worked well together at Vancouver city hall.
When asked if Meggs would be a strong candidate in Vancouver-Fairview, Faoro replied: "He hasn't declared, so it's premature to comment."
Sihota said that contested nominations are often good for the party because it brings some excitement and focus to the race. He added that it's important to work hard afterward to ensure that the party stays united in the constituency in the general election.
Heyman noted that has been an approved and declared candidate for the Vancouver-Fairview NDP nomination since July.
"I took a leave from my job to campaign," he pointed out. "I'm now back at my job at Sierra Club. I would like a decision made. I think the executive of Fairview would like a decision made."
Follow Charlie Smith on Twitter at twitter.com/csmithstraight.