Monday, January 03, 2011

B.C. leadership round-up: Dana Larsen vs NDP bosses, and a Falcon flip-flop?

While the rest of Canada may have slowed-down for the Christmas break, with two leadership races underway on the left coast the wackiness continued as per usual in Supernatural British Columbia.


* We’ll start with the BC NDP, and the slow to start race to replace Carole James. With potential candidates slow to surface, we finally had someone step forward and put their name into the race over the break, and it’s a familiar name: rabble-rousing marijuana crusader Dana Larsen.
Former West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast federal NDP candidate and marijuana advocate Dana Larsen announced Wednesday that he will run for the leadership of the B.C. New Democrats.

Larsen said he had no plans of pursuing a leadership role until Carole James stepped down from the position in early December, but said he decided to throw his hat in the ring because he wanted to offer "a fresh perspective" to party members and the B.C. electorate.

In an interview with The Outlook, Larsen said he hopes to take the B.C. NDP back to "grassroots" politics and re-establish the party as "unabashedly left wing." Renewed support for low-income and seniors' housing, he said, are two issues at the top of his agenda.

As Troy McClure would say, you may remember Dana Larsen from past scandals was forced to resign as a federal candidate over video of himself driving a car while high on LSD (actually, see update below), or banned from the NDP convention in Halifax by Brad Lavigne.

Yes, we first came to know Larsen as the NDP candidate in West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Really Long Riding Name in the 2008 federal election. Larsen was the first of three NDP candidates to drop out of the race in BC after YouTube video surfaced of Larsen “dropping hallucinogenic drugs and driving while smoking marijuana.”

He resurfaced the next year in the lead-up to the NDP’s 2009 federal convention in Halifax, when he offered financial assistance to potential delegates as part of his campign to pass pro-legalization policy at convention. NDP executive director Brad Lavigne viewed this as improper lobbying and had him banned from the convention hall on conference eve, creating somewhat of a martyr.

It seems Larsen still doesn’t have many friends in the NDP leadership. While Larsen wants to run for the BC leadership, BC NDP boss Moe Sihota is throwing cold-water on the prospect:
But NDP provincial secretary Moe Sihota said Larsen was declared ineligible to run for the party after the 2008 federal election campaign when he had to step down as a candidate in a Vancouver-area riding after videos appeared of him smoking pot and taking LSD.

Sihota also counted Larsen out on a technicality, which he said ultimately could prevent Larsen from running provincially at all.

"He's not a member of the party," said Sihota. "He was already deemed ineligible to run for the party federally and the rules committee, which meets on Jan. 6, would have to decide whether he would be able to run provincially."
It appears some of the confusion may have been addressed, and Larsen does indeed now have a membership, although he says he had, or should have, had one all along. I was interested to read Sihota’s characterization of Larsen’s departure from the 2008 race though. Sihota said Larsen “was deemed ineligible to run for the party federally” but the news coverage at the time made clear Larsen wasn’t forced-out but stepped aside voluntarily:
Asked about Mr. Larsen’s resignation Wednesday evening in Toronto, NDP Leader Jack Layton said he didn’t know why the party hadn’t done checks to find out about some of the candidate’s activities, which are posted on the Internet. He said the candidate submitted the resignation to the B.C. campaign team and that it was accepted.

“I don’t know a lot of the details of what’s gone on there, but he’s obviously taken the decision that he’s not a suitable candidate, and we’ve accepted that decision.”
* It could all be moot anyway, barring gender-reassignment surgery. Because it appears an arcane part of the BC NDP’s constitution requires the next leader to be female:
The next leader of the B.C. NDP will have to be a woman, unless the party's male president or treasurer resigns, according to gender rules in the NDP constitution.

The unique requirement, buried within the NDP's official rulebook, adds an extra layer of complexity in the race to replace leader Carole James.

The constitution states both genders must be represented in the jobs of leader, president and treasurer.

The current president is Moe Sihota and the treasurer is Bob Smits. James is stepping down later this month, and all those who have publicly said they are considering the job are men.

This is yet another example of why I think hard quotas are a clumsy way of achieving demographic parity, and are generally a bad idea. I might add that the BC Liberals didn’t need quotas to attract two quality female candidates in Moira Stilwell and the frontrunner, Christy Clark.

BC Liberals

*Over in BC Liberal land, meanwhile, we may have our first flip-flop of the campaign, on the proposal floated a few weeks back to lower the voting age to 16. When Mike de Jong first floated the idea, and Christy Clark quickly expressed support, Kevin Falcon did as well, in a statement that’s still on his Web site:
Lowering the voting age to 16 is an interesting idea. One I am inclined to support, in conjunction with mandatory civics courses as a part of the high school curriculum. I should add that I am proud to be a member of a party that allows 14 year olds to become full members and commence their engagement as citizens before they get to vote.

“We need to recognize however, that lowering the voting age will not solve all the problems of lack of engagement with citizens. As it is, voter turn-out is unacceptably low in BC. What I am interested in is hearing from people about what we can do collectively to make sure that more people are encouraged to exercise their vote.”
However, just a week later, in a Dec. 21 interview with Harjinder Thind on Red FM, Flacon appeared to back away from that position:
Harjinder Thind: Are you in favour of increasing the minimum wage, or, decreasing the voting age?

Kevin Falcon: I am not in favour of decreasing the voting age because I think that we already are having trouble getting 18 to 24 year olds voting. But, I am interested in reaching out to those young people the way I have done through my leadership campaign by using social media and by using our website and Flicker and facebook and Twitter to connect with young people and we're doing that very successfully.
I hope Falcon will explain his apparent 180 on this issue. And I have to say, reaching out to the kids on the Twitter is nice, but if the message you’re tweeting is I don’t think you should have the vote, you’re missing the point.

*Back to gender, Keith Baldrey analyzes recent polling data and shows a strong shift of the female vote away from the BC NDP to the BC Liberals:
The NDP has long prided itself as a champion of the interests of women, and it even implemented an affirmative action policy to ensure more female candidates in the last election. But it is now seen as the party that undemocratically turfed a female leader, and it will undoubtedly elect a man to succeed Carole James.

In fact, it will be interesting to see if any women even run for the NDP leadership. If none do, it will be a stunning commentary about the party's true commitment to the interests of women.

Meanwhile, the B.C. Liberals couldn't be happier about this. The polls show the NDP's loss in support from women is in the double-digits, as many have gone over to the B.C. Liberals.
*Lastly, Christy Clark is talking about putting families first:

UPDATE: In an e-mail, Larsen clarifies that he did not drive while under the influence of LSD. There is a video of him taking LSD, and a separate video of him driving with an unlit joint. Media coverage indicates the driving video was while under the influence of DMT (dimethyltryptamine), but he says it had worn off before he drove. Says Larsen:
"Despite the media hype, in the two videos in question I am shown to be a responsible user of psychedelics. I do regret the brief segment which shows me driving with an unlit joint in my hand. I advocate for responsible use and don't support driving impaired."

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