Fraser-Nicola candidates square off
As B.C.’s May election looms, Fraser-Nicola MLA candidates are squaring off in what could be a close battle for constituency supremacy.
Fraser-Nicola NDP MLA Harry Lali doled out the first challenge, saying the BC Liberals’ approach to nominate the area’s new candidate was “heavy-handed.”
Lali’s statement comes nearly two weeks after the BC Liberal Party announced Jackie Tegart as the party’s Fraser-Nicola MLA candidate in the upcoming election.
“There is a clearly established pattern of the BC Liberals’ heavy-handedness with local nominations,” he said.
Lali said his fellow New Democrats share the view of a flawed Liberal nomination process that goes against democracy. He said candidates shouldn’t be selected by “party leaders and party brass.”
He noted several Liberal candidates in the past who were “dumped” in favour of other candidates, and Tegart’s Jan. 16 announcement as party candidate came 10 days before local Liberals were invited to nominate their Fraser-Nicola leader in Ashcroft. That invitation, Lali said, was only a formality.
But according to Tegart, the selection process is open.
“People are encouraged to put their names forward,” she said in response to Lali’s statement. “In the short timeframe, I don’t think it’s a surprise, because it’s a big commitment and I don’t see anything wrong with the way the nomination process was carried out.”
She said competition was welcome.
Lali also criticized Tegart for “remaining silent” during her time as a former president of the B.C. School Trustees’ Association when more than 200 schools were closed over the Gordon Campbell/Clark premierships.
Tegart responded, saying school boards have made decisions to close schools based on declining enrolment.
“Certainly the school board in our area has lobbied long and hard to ensure quality education for kids in the area,” she said. “We know the importance of schools to communities, but we also know the reality of declining enrolment and so school boards are struggling to keep schools open in communities, but they are working with communities and parents and looking for the best solutions within the budgets that they receive.”
Lali went on to say he welcomes the competition for the seat as MLA in the Fraser-Nicola, but he added Tegart will have to answer for the “destruction of the social and economic fabric of British Columbia by the Campbell/Clark Liberals.”