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.”