Cowichan Valley NDP riding president resigns over equity policy

Ian Morrison, president of the Cowichan Valley NDP riding association, has resigned his post

Ian Morrison, president of the Cowichan Valley NDP riding association, has resigned his post just days before the nomination meeting to choose a candidate to replace Bill Routley, the long-time NDP MLA for the Valley who is retiring.

Morrison, who wanted to run in the race to replace Routley, announced Jan. 12 that he will run as an independent candidate instead for the Valley in this spring’s provincial election.

He cited the NDP’s new “equity-mandate” policy that is preventing him from running for the candidacy as the reason for his resignation.

The equity-mandate policy states that when an incumbent male NDP MLA steps down from his seat, he must be replaced with a woman, or another member of an equity-seeking group, like a First Nation, another ethnic group or someone with a disability.

As well, when a female NDP MLA steps down, she must be replaced by a woman, according to the policy.

Morrison said he believes the NDP’s candidiate-selection policy is “dramatically flawed” and has failed the NDP’s supporters in the Valley.

“If this was a fair, wide open and transparent nomination race, members locally would have made their choice of a winning candidate from all the best candidates available,” he said.

“As a result of the actions of the elites at the NDP’s provincial office, this process hasn’t been fair, open or transparent. New Democrats know the difference between right and wrong and so do I. This form of equity policy is just plain wrong.”

Tim McGonigle was also ready to throw his hat in the ring as a nominee to replace Routley, but the Lake Cowichan town councillor was informed that he is not qualified to run for the nomination because he is an able-bodied white man.

“I’m certainly disappointed,” McGonigle said.

“I had hoped that a candidate for the riding would be chosen for his or her merits and not just based on chromosomes. But I will support whoever is chosen to be the NDP candidate for the Cowichan Valley.”

There are now only three nominees, all women, vying to replace Routley as the NDP candidate in the Valley.

That race will be decided at a nomination meeting on Jan. 15.

The nominees are Lori Iannidinardo, the Cowichan Valley Regional District’s director for Cowichan Bay, Hannah Seymour, a former Cowichan Valley school trustee, and Leanne Finlayson, a constituency assistant for NDP MP Alistair MacGregor.

Former candidate Georgia Collins withdrew from the race recently in dramatic fashion, citing harassment and sexism, allegations the party said it is investigating further.

Jen Holmwood, a spokeswoman for the provincial NDP, said the equity-mandate policy has been around for several election cycles in different forms, but it was updated to its current form in 2015.

She said its purpose is to reflect the NDP’s commitment to ensure the diversity of the province is reflected in the legislature, and to help remove the barriers to running for political office that exist in B.C.

“The policy is sometimes questioned, but most people realize the value of its merits and its intent to take down the barriers for people that are considered different,” Holmwood said.

“We want our representatives in government to look like what B.C. actually looks like.”

Iannidinardo said that after many years serving on the CVRD’s board and various committees, she believes it’s better to have as wide a diversity of representatives on them as possible to reflect the actual demographics of the community.

“I think it’s very brave of the NDP to put this policy out there,” she said.

“It has always been a challenge to get a diversity of people in government roles, and this policy helps with that goal.”