Earlier this week, Postmedia News published a story in which Gerry Taft’s securing of the NDP nomination for Columbia River Revelstoke was questioned.
At issue was whether the NDP Party rules about who is eligible to represent a riding were honoured
The rule, which is controversial within the party itself, has the goal of providing a more diverse caucus.
Simply put, if a female MLA retires or resigns, another woman must be the candidate. If a man retires, such as in Columbia River Revelstoke’s case with the retiring Norm Macdonald, the candidate does not have to be a woman but does have to meet a rigorous range of categories, all aimed at more diversity at the caucus table. The candidate should be “a member of an equity-seeking group, such as a member of a First Nation”.
Spring Hawes of Invermere ran against Taft for the right to represent Columbia River Revelstoke for the NDP. This past weekend, Taft won the nomination in Golden with 163 votes to 85 for Hawes. There were two spoiled ballots.
Taft told reporter Rob Shaw of the Vancouver Sun this week that he received approval by NDP headquarters to be designated a minority, but would prefer the reason why be kept private from the NDP riding association members and the general electorate in 2017.
Hawes in turn told the same reporter that it doesn’t feel like the spirit of the NDP gender policy was honoured by Taft’s victory.
Now, however, as the story has had a few days to percolate through the region, Taft has come forward with a statement. Here it is in full:
“There have been questions raised about my equity status in reference to my position as a candidate for the BC NDP.
“As part of the candidate vetting process, I disclosed to the party the reason that I qualify for equity status. Due to my family situation and my belief that an MLA should represent all people, I chose to keep my equity status private.
“I believed that my privacy would be respected and that I would be able to make my disclosure in my own time, and in my own way, if I chose to do so.
“The party approved me as a candidate and the local constituency members chose me as their candidate with a strong majority, without requiring a public declaration of the nature of my equity status.
“Over the last few days, it has become clear that there are those, including the person I defeated for the nomination, who will continue to insist that my equity status be publicly disclosed.
“I live with my partner Nozomi and my young son, but I identify as bi-sexual. This has always been a private matter; as a result, I have never made a public declaration about my sexuality. I’ve never felt that I had to.
“I am choosing to disclose now because it will allow us to turn our attention away from the equity mandate towards the issues that really matter to this region. We can focus on the BC Liberal cuts to public education, centralization of rural healthcare, and the mismanagement of our natural resources.
“Being born and raised in the Kootenays, having 14 years of local government experience and the perspective of running several successful small businesses, I have the experience and the skills to be an effective voice for this region in Victoria.”
The Bulletin contacted Hawes for a statement, but at press time she had not responded.