And wouldn't you know it, Deputy Premier Coleman's paw prints are all over this latest mess. Mark these words: the BC Liberals are going to lose this safe seat.
Now that Van Dongen is gone as a Liberal, there are going to be different ways to split the vote. I also don't think the people of Abbotsford are going to tolerate these kind of heavy-handed political tactics the BC Liberals have used in this riding any more than voters around B.C. The citizens of BC are tired of people who are BULLIES.
Message to Plecas: You are about to be SCHOOLED!
Michael Smyth, The Province,
Darryl Plecas got a golden parachute into politics
— and immediately dropped into the middle of a bizarre snake pit.
The outspoken criminologist will be acclaimed today
as the Liberals' new star candidate in Abbotsford South, the riding held by hellraising
ex-Liberal John van Dongen.
But rather than embracing Plecas as a saviour,
Abbotsford Liberals are up in arms. The entire executive of the Abbotsford
South riding association has quit in protest.
"The party brass cooked this up in the
backrooms and forced it down our throats," said Stephen Evans, who quit as
the Liberal riding president along with five other local party executives.
Evans and the others wanted Abbotsford city Coun. Moe Gill to be the candidate.
Gill said he organized for three years to take a run at the Liberal nomination,
and figured he had it in the bag.
"(Deputy Premier) Rich Coleman even came to my
house and told me and my wife that I'd be the candidate," Gill claimed
Wednesday. "Instead, I feel like the Liberal Party dug a trench, threw me
in and dumped a pile of manure on me."
Plecas said the party kept up the pressure,
eventually telling him about three weeks ago he would receive the nomination by
Gill, meanwhile, said he was asked to a meeting
with a party official at Abbotsford's Cactus Club restaurant, where he was told
he wouldn't be the candidate.
"I said, 'Don't do this to me' and they said,
'Too bad, you're not accepted.'"
Gill said he was then "bullied" into
signing a statement that he would instead seek the Liberal nomination in
"I was desperate, so I signed," Gill
said. "But I have no support in Abbotsford-Mission. I'm finished. This
party just took me out, they destroyed me."
Evans said he thinks Coleman favoured Plecas
because they're related. "That's a stretch," Plecas fires back.
"Rich Coleman's son is married to my niece. Moe Gill actually knows Rich
Coleman better than I do."
The criminologist and the rough side of B.C. Liberal politics
VICTORIA — As criminologist Darryl Plecas tells it, he was sitting across from Rich Coleman one day this summer, when out of the blue, the B.C. Liberal cabinet minister and deputy premier asked if he’d consider running for office.
“When hell freezes over,” replied Plecas. He had no self-evident political skills and no taste for the blood sport of B.C. politics.
Coleman persisted. Three decades working and teaching at the University of the Fraser Valley. Policy adviser to governments. Go-to guy for the media on crime, policing, and justice. Would Plecas at least think it over?
Persuaded, Plecas contacted the Liberals. “I’m a soldier,” he told them. “I’ll run wherever you want.”
They wanted him for Abbotsford South, the riding long held by John van Dongen, lately defected from the Liberals to the Conservatives and then to sit as an independent. Plecas lives a half block outside Abbotsford South and the campus where he spent his working life is in the middle of the riding.
He filed his nomination papers, party headquarters green-lighted him as a candidate on Nov. 5, and expedited the nomination meeting for Nov. 22 with him as the only approved candidate.
Plecas had signed up no members and done no campaigning. He had not even met with the riding executive as a courtesy. Still he was to be acclaimed. Party headquarters said so.
Then came Tuesday of this week and the resignation of pretty much the entire constituency executive, protesting what they saw as headquarters freezing out their preferred candidate, Moe Gill.
Gill is a 16-year veteran of Abbotsford city council and the first Indo-Canadian elected to local government in the Fraser Valley. He’s made no secret of his interest in securing the Liberal nomination in Abbotsford South, even back when van Dongen was still a member.
When the incumbent MLA quit the party in March, Gill seized the opportunity to win control of the riding, via the annual election for the executive board. Gill’s longtime associate Stephen Evans was elected president, flanked by a slate of allies.
Once in, Evans and crew waited for the party to schedule the nomination, secure in their belief that Gill, who had been signing up members for months, could defeat any rival.
But other Liberals had their doubts about Gill. He’d barely won re-election in his last run for council. He’d also run for the federal Liberals in 2004, finishing a distant second. They fretted that he’d alienate supporters of the federal Conservatives, clearing the way for van Dongen to win re-election as an independent.
Hence the decision to recruit Plecas as a presumed star candidate and better match for the riding’s right-of-centre proclivities. At the same time, the party hoped to rescue the situation with Gill.
Coleman met with the councillor at his home and urged him to divert his ambitions to neighbouring Abbotsford-Mission, a no-less-reliable bastion of Liberal support where incumbent MLA Randy Hawes was retiring.
Gill balked. So party headquarters sent an emissary, who, as Gill describes it, made it clear that the councillor wasn’t welcome in Abbotsford South, then “bullied” him into signing up to run in Mission.
A cheap diversion as it turned out. Two other candidates were already declared for the nomination and Gill’s supporters were, of course in South. Upon reflection, he repudiated any interest in Mission.
Thus did Gill and his team discover the rough side of Liberal party politics. “We will exact our revenge,” Evans told me. In the next election? “Just watch us,” he replied.
And thus did Plecas get his baptism in the political arena. Any second thoughts? “No,” he maintained Wednesday. He’ll soldier on, starting with tonight’s scheduled nominating meeting, expected to convene against a backdrop of protest from Gill supporters.
Come the election, the rookie Liberal candidate will be challenged from all directions. Van Dongen. The Conservatives. Maybe Gill. And laughing in the midst of it all, Lakhvinder Jhaj, already nominated to run for the New Democrats.
Last time out, her party finished second with 26 per cent of the vote. If she can improve on that by a few points, in a four- or five-way race, it could be enough to win.
© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun.