NDP stands by equity policy

No straight, white guys will run in Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows

BC NDP president Moe Sihota stands behind the party's equity policy.

BC NDP president Moe Sihota stands behind the party's equity policy.

The B.C. NDP is standing behind a policy that ensures the next candidate who’ll vie to represent Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows in Victoria won’t be a straight, white man.

Under the party’s equity rules, when a nomination takes place in an NDP riding formerly held by an incumbent, the candidate has to be either a woman, member of an ethnic group, or gay, bisexual, lesbian or transgendered.

The Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows riding is currently held by Michael Sather, an NDP MLA since 2005, who announced last week that he’ll be retiring from politics.

The equity policy is under constant review and the latest evaluation will be complete Oct. 1 but don’t expect major changes.

If there’s an election before October, the policy stands as is.

“From our point of view, the policy reflects the depth of commitment that we have to represent the face of B.C. in the legislature,” said B.C. NDP president Moe Sihota.

Sihota believes the policy has worked well and points to several NDP MLAs  elected over the years including Rosemary Brown, Jenny Kwan and himself.

“We were amongst the first people from an ethnic background to be elected to the legislature,” said Sihota.

“We’ve got a better record than anybody else. Other parties talk it but find it difficult to implement.”

The review underway may lead to the inclusion of a clause that allows an exemption if the riding recruits a star candidate but don’t expect tweaks that will allow Maple Ridge Coun. Craig Speirs to seek the nomination.

Speirs believes the riding will be able to recruit a candidate who will ensure the NDP holds on to the seat.

“We have a very strong group to pull from and I’m willing to look outside that group,” said Speirs, who is the riding association president.

“I am completely happy with the policy. I think it’s really good. We have to involve people from disparate groups in our society, some who are under represented or not represented at all. I think there are a lot of good people out there. I think they should step forward. We are a very welcoming party.”

The NDP quotas however have drawn criticism from the governing B.C. Liberals and now the B.C. Conservatives are joining the nay sayers.

“It contradicts the basic values of British Columbians and a free and open democratic society,” said B.C. Conservative leader John Cummings.

“We live in a strong, multicultural society and we have a record in this province of electing people from a variety of ethnic backgrounds. We currently have a lady serving as premier of British Columbia and she didn’t need any special considerations to win against some very strong candidates.”