Cowichan NDP president quits citing ‘institutional sexism’


The Cowichan Valley provincial NDP continues to splinter after Ian Morrison, its local constituency president, quit over the controversial equity mandate policy that rejected him as a candidate. He plans to run as an independent in the May election.

The equity mandate is a provincewide NDP policy that supports candidates from underrepresented communities: disabled, female, indigenous, LGBTQ, or part of a visible minority.

In the past few weeks allegations of unfair treatment have dogged the race. Local candidate Georgia Collins has dropped out, citing sexism, bullying and harassment by party insiders. Morrison, who resigned Jan. 12, said the equity mandate is just as damaging. “This is institutional sexism and a form of discrimination that the party elites don’t want to admit,” he said. The Cowichan Valley NDP members will choose a candidate on Jan. 15.

A Honeymoon Bay resident who represents Cowichan Lake South as a director on the Cowichan Vallery Regional District board, Morrison believes the policy is not supported by most members, recalling very strong resolutions at recent NDP conventions stating that any member in good standing can contest the nominations. At the convention he was told he could run. “I had a chance to at least contest, at least be judged by the members.”

After the Labour Day event when current MLA Bill Routley announced his impending retirement, Morrison began to make inquiries about getting an application. “I was told I wouldn’t be getting one. Throughout that time members were approaching me – from the public and other parties – saying we thought we’d see your name on the ballot,” he said.

Ironically, the people the policy aims to help don’t like it either. “People from the ‘equity-seeking’ groups have come to me and said ‘I don’t want to win the nomination because I’m a person of colour. I want to win because I’m the best candidate,’” said Morrison. “Women say to me ‘I don’t want to win the nomination because they exclude one group. I find it offensive.’”

The policy has caused some controversy already. In another B.C. riding last fall (see story), a secretive campaign resulted in the winning nominee being outed for his sexual preference. “I’m absolutely supportive of having an elected house that is more representative of the population,” said Morrison. “But it’s a policy that is rooted in another era. This is a riding that New Democrats should win but they have a limited field in a special category.”

Morrison know the job ahead as an independent candidate will be a tough one against a strong pack of Green, NDP and Liberal candidates. “The decision was made quickly but agonized over for weeks,” he said. “Starting out as an underdog is just fine. It’s just going to be a longer climb. I think people are likely ready to elect someone who can work with government and put their interests first before their party interest.”


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  1. This has nothing to do with “Institutional Sexism,” and everything to do with trying to ensure that the NDP reflects the constituency by making it more possible for underrepresented communities to be present at the table. In my opinion, this is a classic case of white male privilege stamping its pretty little foot.

    After the NDP all nominees meeting last Sunday, the NDP President of the day was allegedly in the parking lot at the community centre saying all the candidates were terrible, when nothing could be further from the truth.

    Sour grapes, Ian. The membership made this decision, not the leadership. Grow up.

  2. I take this relevant excerpt from a piece I just read for consideration here:

    As we understand it, feminizing politics means three things. First, gender equality in institutional representation and public participation. Second, a commitment to public policies that challenge gender roles and seek to break down patriarchy. Third, a different way of doing politics, based on values and practices that put an emphasis on everyday life, relationships, the role of the community and the common good.

    This third element is controversial within the feminist movement. The idea that the “feminine” — itself a product of patriarchy — should be reinforced has been criticized. However, such an approach can be justified for a number of reasons. First, because traditional politics prizes and promotes masculine traits, while it devalues and excludes those with which many women feel more comfortable. There is little point in increasing the proportion of women in decision-making spaces if they are relegated to a subordinate role in them.

    Found here at Roar Magazine published yesterday:

    The piece goes on to say:

    Second, by focusing on ways of doing, the feminization of politics gets to the heart of the ways in which gender roles are reproduced. “The personal is political,” said Carol Hanish in 1969, pointing to the fact that the public sphere is directly connected to what happens in the private domain. The slogan also warns us that large-scale plans and abstract ideas alone will be insufficient if they do not include changes at the micro-level, in the practices on which everything else is based.

    Finally, because this part of the feminization of politics emphasizes goals like cooperation, participation and considering others’ interests that are valuable in themselves, beyond the question of gender. We believe these elements are the ones that can make a positive impact on people’s lives in the long term, beyond the immediate effect of certain left-wing policies.

    End of excerpt.

    I think it is important the local NDP realize the swamp they have created out of their nomination process is rooted in the dynamic outlined in this piece that pits populist tendencies against the required feminization of politics as defined here.

    I hope the NDP can salvage this mess, but I have serious doubts.

    This will likely require the application of alternative electoral strategies to ensure the Liberals do not take this seat and form government.

  3. Pingback: Cowichan NDP chooses Lori Iannidinardo - Local News Eye

  4. As a president (now former president) of a NDP constituency one has to wonder why Morrison took the action he did since the gender equity measure was put in place more than 5 years ago. If he had concerns about the policy why did he accept the role of president of the constituency and just now complain about it’s “institutional sexism”?

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