B.C. POLITICS

Dirty game of politics gets dirtier with B.C. nomination

The Globe and Mail

With the blessing and encouragement of Liberal Party officials, Moe Gill worked for nearly two years putting in place a team to get the nomination in Abbotsford South. He lived in the riding and was a long-time councillor in the area. (Rick Collins For The Globe and Mail)

Darryl Plecas is now officially the B.C. Liberal candidate for Abbotsford South. He shouldn’t be.

The circumstances that surround Mr. Plecas’s acclamation Thursday night should make everyone pause to consider just how desperate and morally broke B.C.’s governing party is. They also raise troubling questions about Premier Christy Clark’s own principles and ethics code.

Story continues below ad

No one should be treated the way Moe Gill was – even in a game as dirty as politics.

With the blessing and encouragement of Liberal Party officials, Mr. Gill worked for nearly two years putting in place a team to get the nomination in Abbotsford South. He lived in the riding. He was a long-time councillor in the area. For years, he had staunchly supported the Liberals and one of their leading politicians, Finance Minister Mike de Jong. He’d helped Mr. de Jong in his failed leadership bid in 2011. Mr. de Jong, in turn, had assured Mr. Gill the nomination in Abbotsford South was his.

It was largely a given anyway because of the impressive support Mr. Gill had lined up, especially in the all-important South Asian community. But then Mr. Gill got a call from Energy Minister Rich Coleman, a man who is as close to a party boss as there is in the Liberals. He told Mr. Gill he didn’t want him to seek the nomination in Abbotsford South. The party wanted Daryl Plecas, a prominent criminologist, to get it instead.

You see, Mr. Plecas was a name, a somebody often quoted in the media. Mr. Gill was just a lowly party stalwart who was naive enough to believe that the word of party powerbrokers actually meant something.

Mr. Gill was stunned. He’d raised thousands of dollars for the riding, the benefits of which Mr. Plecas would now enjoy. He’d spent some of his own money, too, in the process of organizing. Now party HQ wanted him to seek the nomination in Abbotsford Mission, where he had no support and where other candidates had an unbeatable head start. He’d stand no chance.

A little while later, Mr. Gill was visited by Liberal organizer Bruce Burley, who told him he was there on behalf of Ms. Clark and Liberal campaign director Mike McDonald. Mr. Gill was given an ultimatum: It’s Abbotsford Mission or nothing. Mr. Burley slid the nomination papers in front of him. In a moment of sheer panic and confusion, Mr. Gill signed.

And regretted it minutes later.

Once the Liberal riding association in Abbotsford South got wind of what had happened, there was complete shock. This is how the Liberal Party treated its own? Over the vehement objections of the riding association executive, the Liberals pressed on with their plan to hand Mr. Plecas the nomination.

The riding association executive resigned en masse. Mr. Gill announced he was ending his association with the Liberals. Party brass could not have cared less.

We all know politics is a tough, bruising business. But we don’t have to like it when it’s grotty and deceitful. And we don’t have to like or support individuals who represent values that are anathema to those possessed by most fair-minded Canadians.

What the Liberal Party did to Moe Gill was rotten. By all accounts, Mr. Plecas is a smart and decent person. But he should never have accepted the nomination under the conditions he did. It says as much about him as it does about the party he represents.

When I heard Mr. Plecas on CKNW radio with Bill Good the other day, I wondered what all the fuss about his candidacy was anyway. His answer to Mr. Good’s question about why he wanted to run for office couldn’t have been more facile: because he believes in open and transparent government; because he thinks government should be more inclusive; because he believes we need to think less about why we can’t do things and more about how we can make things work.

If nothing else, he’s got his Liberal Party talking points down.

Mr. Plecas should have declined the party’s gift-wrapped nomination because he is going to be dogged by this unpleasant bit of business from now until election day. You can’t say you want to run for politics because you believe it can be done differently, because you believe you can take the politics out of politics for the common good, and at the same time represent a party that orchestrated something so cynical, that treated a good and decent person with such contempt.

The great irony here is that the Liberals probably had a shot in Abbotsford South with Moe Gill as their candidate. But what the party did to him almost ensures its defeat there come next May.

Follow on Twitter: @garymasonglobe

Topics: