Pubdate: Fri, 16 Jan 2015
Source: Vancouver Sun (CN BC)
Copyright: 2015 Postmedia Network Inc.
Author: Peter O'Neil
Page: A3


Battle for NDP stronghold with influence over national policies has
federal parties salivating

Libby Davies's surprise announcement that she's not running in this
year's federal election has made Vancouver East one of the most
compelling political stories in the country.

For the New Democratic Party, their deputy leader's intended departure
has prompted a frantic battle for the nomination in one of the safest
NDP seats in the country, featuring prominent provincial MLAs Jenny
Kwan and Mable Elmore.

For the Liberals, the hope that they can take the riding for just the
third time since the 1930s has highlighted a potential messy internal
spat with aspiring candidate Jodie Emery, the wife of controversial
marijuana legalization activist Marc "Prince of Pot" Emery.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservatives can only salivate at the
lose-lose proposition facing the Liberals.

If Liberal party officials block Emery's candidacy, it raises
questions about the leader's commitment to an open nomination process,
starting with those from the Emerys, who are already publicly talking
about senior Liberals conspiring against them.

If the Liberals let her run and perhaps take the nomination, it links
a party aspiring to govern to two outspoken and controversial media

Marc, for instance, called the Liberal leader a "f---ing hypocrite" in
2009, and later raised questions about Trudeau's honesty.

And Jodie, in 2007, sent out signed "Liberty turns me on!" copies of a
centrefold type photo of herself in a white bikini to promote Ron
Paul, an arch conservative U.S. presidential candidate who favoured
liberalized drug laws.

A special riding

Vancouver East, one of the poorest electoral districts in the country,
already punches above its weight in terms of influencing national
public policy on a variety of issues - from drug policy and
prostitution to criminal justice, social housing and

"This will be a riding to watch as we move toward the 2015 election,"
said University of Victoria political scientist Kimberly Speers.

"Vancouver East is a very special riding, where progressive policy
changes can have national implications," said Kwan, who said this week
she's "seriously" considering a bid to challenge Elmore, who has
already declared her intentions.

Davies triumphed in 2011 with a record 63 per cent of the vote. The
NDP and its predecessor, the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation,
have lost the seat only twice - in 1974 and in 1993, both times when
the Liberals won a national majority during periods when unpopular
provincial NDP governments were in power in B.C.

While typical party nomination battles involve at most a few hundred
members, this battle will likely bring in thousands of members to the
candidate-selection meeting.

"Vancouver East will be very different because there's a lot more to
play for," said Kennedy Stewart, the NDP MP for Burnaby-Douglas and a
former Simon Fraser University political scientist.

"It's about as close you can get to a job for life as far as the NDP
goes. So it will be a humdinger."

Ethnic politics is also going to play a big role. Kwan, if she gets
the nomination, would have a head start in winning support from the
one-quarter of the riding's population who are ethnic Chinese.

But that may not help her in the nomination battle, as that community
isn't as NDP-friendly or as actively involved in grassroots politics
as Elmore's Filipino community, which numbers around 6,000.

A further dynamic is how Kwan will handle a major controversy from
last year, when she paid back $35,000 for family trips to Europe and
Disneyland that were paid for by the Portland Hotel Society, a
non-profit organization that assists the homeless and drug addicts in
the Downtown Eastside. Kwan said her then-husband, a society director,
had told her he had paid for the family costs of the holidays.

Liberal gamble

For the Liberals, the removal of one of B.C.'s most popular left-wing
politicians at least opens the door to the notion of a Liberal upset.

The Liberals are gambling that Justin Trudeau's poll numbers stay well
ahead of the NDP's, putting them in the position of being able to tell
voters that only their party can oust Harper.

And internal party polling figures obtained by The Sun this week
indicated that the NDP's support in Vancouver East has shrunk almost
in half, to 34 per cent, with Davies out of the equation.

The Liberals are within spitting distance, at 27 per cent, according
to a mid-December survey of 503 riding residents, a sample size that
is normally accurate to within 4.4 percentage points 95 per cent of
the time.

But Trudeau has a problem in Emery, an attractive, charismatic young
candidate who is both an activist for pot legalization and a business
partner in her husband's store on West Hastings that offers a dizzying
variety of drug paraphernalia "but not cannabis," according to the
Cannabis Culture website.

University of Victoria political scientist Kimberly Speers said
Trudeau, like all leaders, has to protect the party "brand" during an
intense election campaign.

"They have a lot to lose if they run someone who is very controversial
and creates problems, or hogs the media spotlight," she said Thursday.

While the marijuana legalization issue is important to some Canadians,
and especially youth, any party runs a risk by appearing to be captive
to a single-issue individual or group, she said.

"If Emery was to be nominated, the Conservatives would have a field
day," she wrote in an email exchange.

The Liberals have a long history of interfering in nomination battles,
motivated by a desire to block singleissue candidates, to increase the
number of female candidates, and to pave the way for "star" candidates.

Trudeau has vowed to break that tradition, though some have questioned
that pledge after the Liberals took steps behind the scenes in several
ridings across Canada, including at least two in B.C., to persuade
unwanted hopefuls to withdraw.

It's not a practice exclusive to the Liberals. In late 2014, former
B.C. Conservative MP Gurmant Grewal, embroiled in several
controversies before he left politics in 2006, had his candidacy for a
Lower Mainland riding quashed for unspecified reasons.

For Emery's candidacy to proceed, she will have to pass muster with
the Liberals so-called green light committee.

Party rules give the committee "unfettered discretion" to determine
"whether it is in the best political interests of the party" to
approve the candidate.

In addition to financial and ethical issues, potential candidates are
looked at to determine if there has been a "demonstrated history of
commitment to the party," including a commitment to Liberal policies
and values. That could be a problem for Emery, as she has run for the
B.C. Marijuana Party and the B.C. Green party. Both she and her
husband, in addition to aggressively to supporting Ron Paul's U.S.
presidential bids that were aimed at dramatically shrinking the size
of government, also were, for a time, strong federal NDP supporters.

That's one reason the Liberals should keep their distance, B.C.
political commentator Bill Tieleman argued in a column last summer.

"They're one-trick ponies on the single issue of marijuana, and
regularly change political stables to further their cause without any
loyalty whatsoever to either the party or its leader."
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