NDP MLA Michael Sather removed from caucus

NDP Leader Carole James and NDP caucus chair Katrine Conroy jointly announced the suspension of Michael Sather, MLA for Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows, from caucus because he has stated he will vote against ratification of a treaty with the Tsawwassen First Nation.

Sather opposed the treaty because it will transfer more than 200 hectares of agricultural land to the Tsawwassen First Nation, which will then be free to convert it to other uses.

Last month, SFU public-policy professor Doug McArthur, a former deputy minister to former premier Glen Clark, wrote an opinion piece in the Vancouver Sun criticizing "extremist columnists and activists" who've pressured NDP caucus members to oppose the treaty.

McArthur is an NDP moderate and former COPE board member who supported former mayor Larry Campbell's decision to form a separate caucus, which later evolved into Vision Vancouver. Now, it appears he is having an effect on James.

Anyone who reads the Hansard debates would likely conclude that Sather is one of the more cerebral members of the legislature. He has questioned the premier about foreign takeovers, including Kinder Morgan's purchase of Terasen, and raised concerns about an Alaska rail link, transit, and the Gateway project, as well as a host of environmental issues.

Sather's ouster is not the first time James has pulled the plug on one of the smarter members of her party. She also ditched the candidacy of Rollie Keith in the last provincial election after he publicly questioned the evidence being presented against Slobodan Milosevic at a war-crimes tribunal.

It didn't matter to James that Keith's views were supported by Maj.-Gen. Lewis McKenzie, who once served as chief of staff of the UN protection force in Yugoslavia.

This week, the NDP trotted out a non-lawyer, Mike Farnworth, to offer his usual law-and-order commentaries to the media following a horrific murder-suicide in Oak Bay. Farnworth blamed the government on CBC Radio for a judge's decision to grant bail.

The NDP's capable attorney general critic, Leonard Krog, remained in the background even though he is a lawyer and he spent many, many more years than Farnworth dealing with criminal-justice issues.

Statement from Carole James, Leader of the BC NDP, and Katrine Conroy, NDP Caucus Whip

For Immediate Release

September 7, 2007

Victoria -- Michael Sather, MLA for Maple-Ridge Pitt Meadows, has been temporarily suspended from the NDP Caucus as a result of his decision to vote against the Tsawwassen Treaty when it comes to the Legislature this fall for a ratification vote. Mr. Sather’s suspension will last until the conclusion of this year’s fall sitting of the Legislature.

Mr. Sather is a dedicated MLA. We regret that his actions have forced this decision. Nevertheless, the NDP Caucus is firm that decisions taken by Caucus are to be respected and upheld.

The NDP Caucus has a proud history in the struggle for justice for First Nations and in fighting for BC’s agricultural community.

Our caucus strongly believes that to stall the treaty process now would take BC backwards on the journey towards reconciliation with First Nations. We also strongly believe that settling treaties and protecting agricultural land are mutually supporting goals. The ALR must be protected throughout the treaty process. The NDP Caucus will continue to speak out strongly for BC’s agricultural community and for the integrity of the Agricultural Land Reserve.

Corky Evans, MLA Nelson Creston and Guy Gentner, MLA for Delta North, will respect the NDP Caucus decision on the Tsawwassen Treaty.