11/20/2012 01:20 EST | Updated 01/19/2013 05:12 EST

B.C. NDP, Liberal Nominations Reveal Tale Of Two Parties

If the B.C. NDP have sprung to life, they have a strange way of showing it off, by failing to sign up members and sending experienced candidates packing. In contrast, supporters of the B.C. Liberal Party are showing up in strong numbers and backing A-listers.


Is it time to sell your B.C. NDP stock and buy shares in the B.C. Liberals? It was an off-the-cuff remark by former Vancouver mayor Sam Sullivan during his interview with CBC radio host Stephen Quinn that prompted that question. Quinn asked why Sullivan would attach himself to the B.C. Liberals, who have struggled to grow their poll numbers this past year. The former mayor responded that the B.C. Liberal "stock price is undervalued."

"When the public misreads the value of the stock and starts to sell too low, that's when I want to buy," commented Sullivan.

Savvy stock watchers can earn a lot of income by playing the markets right. Is Sullivan one step ahead of the political pundits and pollsters in seeing the value in B.C.'s centre-right coalition party? You could argue the signs are there, but here is some background to consider before you visit E*

Former Vancouver Mayor Sam Sullivan is seeking the B.C. Liberal nomination in Vancouver-False Creek. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)


Both the B.C. Liberals and B.C. NDP have acclaimed candidates all over the province. Most, of course are incumbents, and others are selected at the prerogative of the party leaders. However, when it comes to open nomination contests, the two parties have taken a different approach.

Take, for example, the ridings in Vancouver. Voting patterns over the last few decades show that both Vancouver-Point Grey (currently held by Premier Christy Clark) and Vancouver-Fairview (held by Minister of Health Margaret MacDiarmid) are ridings that often swing in favour of what party forms government. And in Vancouver-Fraserview in the city's southeast corner, B.C. Liberal Kash Heed only beat his NDP opponent by 800 votes.

Last November NDP members surprised outside observers by nominating Gabriel Yiu over the high profile George Chow in Vancouver-Fraserview, a two-term Vision Vancouver city councillor. The popular Chow was considered to be a shoo-in candidate after the election flyer debacle that tainted current MLA Heed, but only 90 members supported his candidacy on voting day.

For his troubles Chow was later acclaimed by the B.C. NDP in Vancouver-Langara, where in 2009 B.C. Liberal Moira Stilwell won handily by 4,200 votes.

Just last week David Eby, who recently stepped down as the executive director of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, was quietly acclaimed by the B.C. NDP to run against the premier in Point Grey.

Taking down the leader of your opposition is the ultimate chess move in politics, but the NDP have resigned themselves to running Eby again rather than a more centrist candidate who might appeal to Point Grey's mostly liberal voter base. Vision Vancouver school board trustee Patti Bacchus had been rumoured as a possible Point Grey candidate, but she passed on the opportunity despite encouragement to run.


In Vancouver-Fairview the choice of candidate is even more perplexing. Two men with strong profiles within NDP ranks and deep connections to organized labour -- Geoff Meggs and George Heyman -- took each other on. Heyman waited patiently as the party seemed to be pushing back the riding nomination date to advantage his opponent Meggs. Yet despite giving the candidates an 18-month run at building support in Fairview, barely anyone showed up. Just 382 members voted in the B.C. NDP's battle for the ages, with Meggs and Heyman only signing up about 150 members each.

And so it went in Vancouver-False Creek. This new downtown Vancouver riding has existed for only one term. B.C. Liberal incumbent Mary McNeil announced in September that she would not be running again. During the summer Vision Park Board commissioner Constance Barnes announced she would be seeking the B.C. NDP nomination in McNeil's riding. It was surmised by many that Barnes would be a formidable candidate who could possibly close the 4,500 vote gap between her party's candidate and the BC Libs in the '09 election, and take False Creek for the NDP.

Not only did Constance top the polls for the Park Board slate in 2011, she had another distinct advantage: her dad, the late MLA Emery Barnes, has a park named after him in the riding. All she had to do was use her public profile and add a little hustle to turn the riding NDP orange.

It is said Barnes campaigned as hard as she could, but on Saturday an outsider candidate named Matt Toner won by less than 10 votes. While the riding refused to share their voter count publicly, GlobalTV BC reported that a riding spokesperson revealed that there were up to 500 eligible members in the riding, and about half of those actually voted.

Matt Toner is the B.C. NDP candidate in Vancouver-False Creek. (Handout)

With an mere nine-vote spread between Barnes and Toner, it is hard to imagine how a "star" candidate like Barnes could only get around 120 people to put an X beside her name. Instead of having another woman running for their team in Vancouver with political experience and deep party roots, the NDP now has a neophyte candidate from the non-unionized tech sector running in False Creek. Just like with the loss by his close friend Meggs, leader Adrian Dix will have to put a brave face on second best.

If there is a surge of popularity happening for the B.C. New Democrats, clearly somebody forgot to tell the citizens of Vancouver.


The B.C. Liberals were crowing about over 700 members coming out to vote in Penticton the same weekend as the Meggs/Heyman snorefest in Fairview. But back in Vancouver it was not clear yet who would be running in the ridings the B.C. Libs stood the best chance of winning - Vancouver-Quilchena and Vancouver-False Creek. What we are seeing now, however, is a pair of contests which will undoubtedly energize the local B.C. Liberal base.

In Quilchena, high-profile political veteran and former city councillor Suzanne Anton is taking on Liberal backroomer Andrew Wilkinson. And in Vancouver-False Creek a new battle is shaping up between two experienced politicos -- former MLA and community activist Lorne Mayencourt, and the aforementioned Sullivan, former Vancouver mayor and four-times elected city councillor.

Each are quality candidates who bring their own strengths and base of support to the B.C. Libs. But what they represent above all is a contradiction to consensus thinking about what is happening in B.C. politics.

If the B.C. NDP have sprung to life, they have a strange way of showing it off, by failing to sign up members and sending experienced candidates packing. In contrast, supporters of the B.C. Liberal Party are showing up in strong numbers and backing A-listers.

So what is really happening out there that the pundits cannot see? Maybe Sullivan is right and it is time to buy BCLIB.

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