KAMLOOPS - Two long-time political combatants on a provincial level are doing their best to keep a local political byelection interesting.
Former B.C. Liberal MLA Kevin Krueger, who is vying for a council seat, has been sparring with Barb Nederpel, who has carried the NDP flag in the past, and together have raised the level of drama in an otherwise low-key campaign.
Krueger turned some heads at the Kamloops and District Labour Council forum on Thursday, Sept. 14 by his very presence, it seems.
Nederpel, labour council president, says his appearance was unexpected because he didn’t fill out a questionnaire all candidates wishing to address the forum were to complete.
Nederpel had to put it to the crowd twice before they would allow Krueger to respond to questions.
"I put it democratically out to everybody saying should we allow everyone to participate,” she says. “They said no the first time. I put it to a motion to reconsider because we are wanting to hear from everybody and he made the effort to come out. Then the crowd said yes."
Krueger was asked the same two questions as the other candidates during the evening. The first was regarding the living wage and the second was whether he would support the city contracting non-union workers to do city jobs. After that, Krueger promptly left the forum, while it was still going on.
Nederpel called it both “surprising” and “rude” before taking to social media.
On Facebook, Nederpel accused Krueger of storming out of the forum.
"If anyone is “friends” with Mr. Kevin Krueger on Facebook, can you see if he had any explanation for storming out of the All Candidates forum last night? I know exactly why he did, but what is he saying?"
To which Krueger responded: “Storming? I stepped out the side door and walked away, because you run a meeting as badly as your failed NDP run a province."
The Facebook post has since been removed.
They’ve both been explaining themselves and their sides of what happened ever since.
Krueger says it was simply the end of a long day and it was time to go home.
"I went back to where I had been sitting which is on the far side of the room from Ms. Nederpel and I thought 'I think I'm done here' because I was feeling such hostility from her," says Krueger. "I'd spent a lot of time listening, a lot of it listening to her, so I just quietly walked out the door."
Nederpel admits saying "stormed out" may have been imprecise.
"It's hard to say that he stormed, I guess," she says. "The door was open so it's not like he slammed it or anything, but he abruptly stopped what he was talking about and, fairly quickly, just walked out the door."
Though Nederpel claims Krueger was not treated differently than any other candidates, he said he felt targeted from the beginning and was not impressed that a vote had to be taken just so he could speak.
"Ms. Nederpel's displeasure with me was obvious throughout, and I can put up with that, but 90 minutes is a big investment of time in a 30 day campaign," he says. "I'd already been working all that day and I didn't want to sit there any longer and have her yell and continue to perform in that manner so I just quietly left. I never stormed and I never felt like storming."
Nederpel says she doesn't know what Krueger is talking about when he claims he was mistreated. She admits the two of them have some bitter history, but she doesn't think anything she did during the forum was out of line.
"This isn't someone I really expected to come out, asking for labour's endorsement, so we don't know why he came," she says. "But when he did I was just as welcoming to him as I was to everybody else. Everybody understood the process and nobody else has complained."
Krueger insists there were mutterings among the candidates that the forum was not run well, though he can't say which candidates shared his view.
Nederpel says a video of the event and the exchange that lead to Krueger's departure will be released in the near future and they will also announce who will be get the labour council's endorsement.
"The Donald Trumps, the Rob Fords, the Kevin Kruegers of the world... we're expected to just brush off their bad behaviour," she said. "I don't understand that. I expect better out of our leaders."
While that news hasn't been shared yet, it's a pretty safe bet Krueger won’t have the labour council's endorsement when voters go to the polls on Sept. 30.
There are 22 candidates running for the two vacant city councillor positions in the Sept. 30 byelection. The mayor's chair is also on the line with six candidates in that race.
For more on the Kamloops byelection go here.
To contact a reporter for this story, email Mike McDonald or call 250-819-3723 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.
We welcome your comments and opinions on our stories but play nice. We won't censor or delete comments unless they contain off-topic statements or links, unnecessary vulgarity, false facts, spam or obviously fake profiles. If you have any concerns about what you see in comments, email the editor in the link above.