Doug Bing is still backing Premier Christy Clark and likes the way she’s responding to the latest bad news facing B.C.’s top leader.
Clark did the right thing by apologizing about a plan to use government resources to further Liberal party goals of building election support by targeting ethnic groups, Bing, the expected Liberal candidate for Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows, said Monday.
It’s ungracious for people not to accept that, he added.
“I think this is a tempest in a teapot. I think everything’s been so exaggerated.”
The Pitt Meadows dentist and city councillor pointed out the plan never was implemented, nor was any public money spent.
“There was a plan. None of it actually happened.
“Every party makes plans to target certain groups, whether it’s young people, women or students or ethnic groups.” The only thing, public or government money shouldn’t be used to do that and parties should be up front about what they’re doing, he added.
A 2012 draft strategy memo leaked to the NDP opposition discusses ways to improve the governing party’s popularity with immigrants, including recruiting new members and spokespeople to write to ethnic media outlets.
Clark issued an apology for the document. It was read in the legislature Thursday by Deputy Premier Rich Coleman.
The January 2012 document refers to “quick wins” for popularity with ethnic voters, referring to a 2008 apology in the B.C. legislature for turning away a ship carrying Indian immigrants from Vancouver harbour in 1914.
Multiculturalism minister John Yap, who’s since resigned, said the memo is an “old planning document” that he did not proceed with when he took over responsibility for multiculturalism in September 2012.
Bing said with about a million people in B.C. belonging to a visible minority, politics is moving beyond catering to voters along ethnic lines.
“I hope all candidates are elected on their merit – not because of their sex or age or race.”
Bing is to be formally acclaimed as the Liberal candidate in Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows at a meeting Saturday in Maple Ridge.
Initially, a nomination contest was to have taken place. But then Terry Becker decided against running, and Bing was the only candidate. Party brass have told him no one else has come forward.
Despite the ethnic plan scandal, he’s optimistic about the May 14 election.
“I’m disappointed, but I knew when I got involved I knew that it would be an uphill battle. That hasn’t changed. I’m still quite hopeful. I’m not discouraged at all. I think that things are going to turn around.”
Recent examples in Alberta and Ontario show that unpopular governments (Progressive Conservative and Liberal, respectively) can survive an election, he added.
“We’ve seen before [where] the governing party was written off and they came back and won. So it’s not over yet.”
Bing’s opponent, NDP candidate Elizabeth Rosenau, couldn’t agree more. She’s not making any assumptions about election day.
“Absolutely not. We know of too many elections when the results were decided in the week before the election.”
She said the revelations about targeting ethnic groups feeds the cynicism people have towards politicians. But her party too also tries to reach out to newcomers with candidates from those communities.
“There are no cheap tricks that I’m aware of. We take the visible minority vote very seriously.”
She pointed out that in leader Adrian Dix’s riding, 85 per cent voters are visible minority, which raises the question about how the term can be used anymore.
If she does win more votes than Bing, Rosenau has a few things in mind.
She’ll quit her job as a pharmacist at London Drugs in Valley Fair Mall, an employer who’s supported her bid in politics, regardless of the party.
And she plans on being accessible and talking to the people who voted her in, even if that gets her in trouble sometimes.
“I want to be the type of politician that is more likely to get in trouble for bringing the needs of my constituents forward to my party rather than to bring the needs of my party forward to my constituents.
“I want to represent people of all political persuasions if I become MLA.”
While Bing is just starting his campaign, Rosenau has been in election mode since last fall, with “hundreds” of volunteers who’ve been campaigning since.
A campaign office on Lougheed Highway and 207th Street is ready to open in April and this Saturday at St. Andrew’s Heritage Church an evening salutes women in politics. A send-off for retiring MLA Michael Sather is planned for March 27 at the Arts Centre Theatre.
Rosenau said that while pounding the pavement, she’s learned that many people are struggling with health and money issues, finding work and paying bills or coping with student debts, and cited the NDP’s plan to reverse cuts to taxes on banks made in 2008 and use the money to set up a needs-based student grant program. She also says she’ll push for better services in the area, pointing out the West Coast Express train is now running at 97 per cent capacity.
During the 2009 election, Sather won Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows by 274 votes.
In Maple Ridge-Mission, NDP candidate Mike Bocking is taking on Liberal Marc Dalton, who’s seeking re-election after a 68-vote victory last time.