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ELECTION 2020: Snap election call made riding associations irrelevant

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October 02, 2020 - 7:00 AM

Premier John Horgan’s snap election call last week was a good political move for him because it caught other parties off guard and forced them to play catch-up.

But it also means that, for the vast majority of candidates in the Oct. 24 election, the democratic nomination process was eliminated as candidates are being appointed by head office.

B.C.’s election dates had been fixed since 2001 so riding associations had plenty of time to put the nomination process in place. That didn’t happen this time around because Horgan, leading a minority government, could call an election at any time. Or he could have been forced into one if he had lost the support of the Green Party.

“Riding associations are important and they should have a life between elections,” Max Cameron, who teaches in the department of political science at UBC in Vancouver, told iNFOnews.ca. “They should be where candidates rise up rather than be appointed by party leaders.”

That democratic process of having party members decide who the local candidate will be has not been perfect, Cameron said.

There are times when leaders want a star candidate to run as potential cabinet material and may even parachute such people into chosen ridings.

It’s the party leaders who sign the nomination papers and there are “green light” committees that vet the candidates to ensure they won’t be an embarrassment to the party so, ultimately, the power lies with the leader, Cameron said.

On the one hand, the party wants a candidate that will support the leader and the caucus.

On the other hand, rising through the riding association can be a way for someone interested in getting into politics to move up through the ranks.

But such people can also become thorns in the sides of the leaders, Cameron noted.

“The whole nomination process must be much better regulated than it currently is,” Cameron said. “Right now, it’s the Wild West.”

In the current case, it can be totally and easily bypassed.

With the snap election, there has not been enough time for calls to go out for nominations, for candidates to sign up members and votes to be held.

There were only 11 days between the Sept. 21 election call and the close of nominations set by Elections B.C. for 1 p.m. tomorrow, Oct. 2.

Last year’s race for the nomination to become the Conservative candidate in the Kelowna-Lake Country federal riding highlights how important a nomination race can be.

Former city councillor Tracy Gray and developer Renee Wasylyk (Merrifield) ran for the nomination.

Both spent a considerable amount of time encouraging people to join the party and they both got plenty of media attention.

READ MORE: Bitter back and forth between Kelowna Conservative party candidates continues

Kelowna-Lake Country had been a safe Conservative riding for decades before being snapped up by Liberal Stephen Fuhr in 2015. With the expectation that he was beatable, the real race was for the nomination.

Gray went on to win the nomination and was elected the MP last year.

Within 45 minutes of Horgan calling the election last week, Merrifield got a call from the B.C. Liberals asking her to run for them in Kelowna-Mission because incumbent Liberal Steve Thomson had retired.

She agreed and was quickly given the nomination, even though at least one other person, Kelowna city councillor Mohini Singh, had already put her name forward.

There won’t be a contest between Merrifield and Singh so local party members will have no say in who their candidate will be.

Even the NDP did not have enough notice to go through the nomination process in most ridings.

In fact, by 8 a.m. Oct. 1, only one NDP candidate in the seven ridings in the Okanagan and Kamloops was on Elections B.C.’s on-line list of nominated candidates.

That was Summerland Mayor Toni Boot who actually went through a nomination process in the Penticton riding and was acclaimed as the candidate on Sept. 16, just days before the election call.

READ MORE:Summerland Mayor Toni Boot to run for B.C. NDP in Penticton

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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