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B.C. NDP candidate in social-media standoff with party bosses

B.C. NDP leadership candidate Nicholas Simons.

Rafal Gerszak/rafal gerszak The Globe and Mail

Nicholas Simons and the party he aspires to lead are at an impasse over the B.C. NDP's policy demanding leadership candidates hand over passwords to their social media so the party can look for embarrassing material.

John Horgan, another of the five candidates for the leadership, described the policy as "excessive," noting he had handed over the codes for his MLA and campaign Facebook sites, but does not have a personal site in his own name.

"I support Nicholas," said the Vancouver Island MLA.

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Candidate Mike Farnworth said he has complied with the policy, but would like to see it reviewed if he becomes party leader.

"The provision of the password was a requirement as passed by the party executive, and one I had to meet in order to seek the leadership. However, concerns have been expressed as to the validity of this requirement, and I respect those concerns, especially as they relate to privacy. If I become leader, I am committed to reviewing this practice," Mr. Farnworth said in a statement.

Adrian Dix, also a candidate, has said he regards everything he's posted on the Internet as part of the public record.

Party spokesman Michael Roy said Thursday the NDP is sticking by the policy as a threshold for all candidates to pass, with no exceptions planned.

"The rules for application were approved by our executive and are consistent for all the candidates," Mr. Roy said in an interview.

He declined to be more specific, or to comment on whether the party would consider an exception for Mr. Simons. He said the party considers the process of vetting applications for the leadership to be confidential so he could not comment further.

The social-media request is part of a 23-question disclosure statement that asks candidates to reveal legal troubles, disagreements with party policy and past political affiliations.

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Mr. Simons and candidate Dana Larsen are the only two whose applications to run have yet to be approved. However, Mr. Larsen noted Thursday that he has provided his social-media passwords.

Mr. Simons said that if the party insists on the social-media request, he won't be eligible to continue with his leadership campaign.

"I am proceeding with the hope and expectation there will be a common ground we can find and I will be able to remain in the race," he said.

"The requirement remains that I need to give the party my user names and passwords. That's still standing. There has been no compromise that has seen that requirement be dropped," he said.

He said he doesn't want to see the dispute characterized as a fight, and added that he isn't in a position to speculate on what might happen because he is hoping for some compromise.

Asked if this could end his campaign, he said it was too soon to say.

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"I'd have to cross that bridge when I get to it, and I don't want to burn it before I have to cross it," said the Sunshine Coast MLA.

Mr. Simons said there should be a balance between the party's need to validate candidates, and the privacy of the candidates and others who might come under scrutiny as part of a review of social policy websites.

The former social worker said he has a long history of dealing with people at risk or in vulnerable situations, who have contacted him. By giving up his codes, he fears their privacy could be compromised.

"I'd like to see what other possibilities the party would put forward to enable them to meet what their objectives are while respecting the fact that there is a principle involved," he said.

Mr. Horgan said the party has a right to screen candidates, but noted Mr. Simons has been effectively vetted through the routine scrutiny applied to a two-term MLA.

"I don't know what else there is to learn about Nick Simons that Nick wouldn't be prepared to tell them if they asked," he said.

He said it was not his impression that the party is intent on probing deeply into Mr. Simons's material, but that an issue of trust was keeping the two sides apart.

"This is a political party that is supposed to be engaging in renewal and the free market of ideas and it's up to the party members to decide who's appropriate and inappropriate to be leader of the party," said Mr. Horgan.

"If Nick, through the course of the campaign, is deemed to be superior to the other candidates, regardless of what the officials at head office think, he should be the leader, similarly with myself or any of the other candidates."

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