After announcing his resignation from the B.C. Liberal caucus Monday, Boundary-Similkameen MLA John Slater has confirmed his intention to run as an independent candidate in the May 2013 provincial election.
Slater announced his resignation suddenly Monday, tweeting that effective immediately, he was resigning from the majority B.C. Liberals and would be sitting as an independent for the remainder of his term.
Slater had expected to represent the Liberals in 2013, but said that the party had refused to endorse his candidacy papers, which were filed in September.
B.C. Liberal president Sharon White confirmed Slater will not be the party’s candidate in Boundary-Similkameen for the next election. In a press release issued within an hour of Slater’s announcement, White said that last month Slater “informed colleagues that he would not seek re-election,” but had reconsidered in the past week.
“The party sought a co-operative solution through discussions with John. This is not a decision taken lightly and is fully considered,” said White.
Slater denied that discussions had taken place, saying instead, party officials had misled him into agreeing to step down in December.
“I was told a bunch of untruths. They said ‘We’ve done polls and John, you have no chance of winning this riding,’” said Slater. “Then I found out from some other party members that’s not true, they didn’t do any polling, they wanted to force you out.”
Slater, with the support of his riding executive, decided to give the provincial executive a deadline to endorse him.
The party’s response, however, was negative.
“They said ‘No, we have no intention of letting you run,’” said Slater.
The Liberal party press release gives no reason for their not endorsing Slater, stating only that his “candidacy is not being approved due to personal issues that, in our view, impact his ability to represent the party.”
Zach Poturica, the Liberal riding president for Boundary-Similkameen, confirmed that the executive was in support of Slater.
Poturica, who has resigned in protest of the Liberal party’s treatment of Slater, said the executive never considered replacing Slater and had been working to get the party to endorse him after the papers were filed in September.
The riding executive, Poturica said, was told approval would take two to three weeks. They had hoped to have it dealt with for the B.C. Liberal party convention, where Poturica notes Slater was treated as a regular candidate.
“Rich Coleman gave John a jersey, a team jersey, had him on stage as part of the 2013 election team,” said Poturica, who announced his resignation shortly after Slater and, in a series of tweets, has said other members of the executive intended to do the same.
“I’m not alone, 3-4 other members of my riding executive are stepping down too, I’m disappointed in the way this party misled us,” reads one of Poturica’s messages. Later, he posted that the riding vice-president and secretary had joined him.
Even before Slater’s papers were filed in September, Poturica said the party had started a smear campaign, suggesting Slater was planning to join the B.C. Conservatives or the NDP.
“That was what was being passed around at the provincial executive level,” said Poturica. When attending meetings, Poturica said that was often the first question he was asked from all levels of the party.
Slater has been, at times, publicly critical of party policies, such as during the HST debate, and he feels that may have been a factor.
“They know I am not 100 per cent happy with some of the policies they have come up with and I have my chance to argue my point of view in caucus meetings with just us and they can ignore me or not ignore me,” said Slater. “There are some issues, there is no question about it.”
Mike McDonald, executive director for the Liberal party, refused to elaborate on the nature of the personal issues.
“We have tried to avoid that and tried to work with John to come to a co-operative solution, which we thought we had arrived at in December in terms of him agreeing not to run and announce it on his own terms,” said McDonald. However, speculation has begun to swirl that the “personal issues” may be due to Slater having a problem with alcohol.
“I have been know to have a few drinks, yes,” said Slater. “It’s never been in the press, it’s never been an issue that way. It’s not like a DUI or something like that.”
Slater said that alcohol has never influenced his judgment at caucus or any other meetings.
“I am an animated person at the best of times and if I have a few beer, I get more animated. Maybe that is what they are talking about,” said Slater. “You can go around my constituency, all the meetings that I go to, week in, week out, that’s never a problem in my riding.”
Slater said he has had a positive effect on the riding as MLA, and expected to win re-election.
“I feel a little bit hurt by this whole thing. I am letting down my constituents more than anything,” said Slater. “I worked my butt off for them and a lot of good things happened … there are all kinds of things that are going to be really positive.”
Now that he won’t be the Liberal candidate for the riding, Slater thinks the NDP may claim the Boundary-Similkameen riding. (Electoral history for Boundary-Similkameen)
“I think it’s a shoe-in,” Slater said before committing to run as an independent. “It depends on what I do too. If I run independent or something, then that is going to split the right vote and allow the NDP to come in full blast.”
“We’ve tried to work respectfully on this. We respect John’s contributions,” said McDonald. “We respect what he has done over the years in the valley and we know he’s been a big presence there. But we just simply couldn’t move forward with an approval based on the personal issues.”
Monday evening, Oliver councillor and former mayor Linda Larson announced that she would be running as the Liberal candidate in May. While he wouldn’t confirm that Larson was the party’s chosen replacement for Slater, McDonald said the party plans to move quickly and attract a candidate that can consolidate right-wing support and stabilize their candidacy there.
“John Slater gave four years of his life to public service, and I think it’s a shame the Liberals are treating him this way,” said Marji Basso, the NDP representative for the riding and, up to this point, the only confirmed candidate.
Regardless of what the Liberals do for their nomination, she said she plans to keep her focus on offering the voters a positive alternative to the Christy Clark government.
“This is a tough job to do, and not one that should be take lightly. Whether we have an independent, a Conservative, a Liberal, a Green, I just want to make sure we have fair representation.”