All six members of the B.C. Liberal riding association board for Abbotsford South resigned Tuesday, claiming the democratic selection for a candidate had been circumvented by senior Liberals to bring in criminologist Darryl Plecas, who is being acclaimed by the party on Thursday night (Nov. 22).
Local B.C. Liberal stalwart and now past riding president Stephen Evans said that Abbotsford Coun. Moe Gill, who was widely known to be interested in running for the party, was shut out before he had a chance to fairly compete.
“The appointment of Darryl Plecas was both unfair and not democratic,” Evans wrote in a press release.
"The only reason for Darryl Plecas’ appointment was that he could not defend a challenge from Moe Gill if there was a fair nomination process. This leads to the question that if Darryl can’t bet Moe Gill in a fair nomination process, how can he win against [Independent MLA] John van Dongen in an election?” he continued.
In an interview, Evans pointed to the Liberal leadership for what he said was a betrayal to the riding association and to Gill, naming deputy premier Rich Coleman, Premier Christy Clark and Abbotsford West MLA and Finance Minister Mike de Jong as the key members in a “green light committee,” the final arbiters in approving candidates, who “threw Gill to the curb.”
Gill, a staunch supporter of de Jong and the B.C. Liberals for many years, was prepared to compete for the candidacy, said Evans.
He said that Coleman, the chairman of the green light committee, had come to see Evans, Gill and his wife at the couple’s home just before the Liberal convention in late October, and told Gill he was the candidate for Abbotsford South.
“We would just [have to] get the members out, get support behind Moe and win that nomination, but we were never given the opportunity,” said Evans.
Instead, Evans was contacted after the convention by regional campaign manager Bruce Burley who told him Plecas would be acclaimed as the candidate, that “it was a done deal.”
Evans said he was shocked and disappointed.
"I'm appalled, that there wasn't enough respect by the green light committee to tell Moe and tell the riding association that they weren't going to support him, and instead they were going to support somebody else. That they and Mike de Jong led him on for two years, and then have the deputy premier go to your house and tell you you're the candidate for Abbotsford South, just win the nomination, that's such a let down and such a lie. I'm just absolutely beside myself.”
Evans is puzzled why Plecas was favoured, but said it was “alleged that Rich Coleman and Darryl Plecas are related in some manner.”
"[Plecas] never participated in the party, he's hasn't been in the riding association ever, he didn't raise any memberships, didn't raise any money," said Evans. “It just doesn't make any sense. He's got no experience, no connections. He didn't even go to Whistler for the convention – how serious a candidate can he be?”
The riding association board decided they had no choice but to resign, and on Tuesday, they decided to go public.
“We just think the best thing now is to bring this into the public's eye, and let them make a decision on what's fair and reasonable."
A veteran political player behind the scenes for 15 years, Evans said he was surprised and disappointed at the party’s handling of Gill and the riding association.
"It's this backroom B.S. that's completely undermining credibility of the B.C. Liberals, and it's not just some little flunky doing this – it's the finance minister and the deputy premier. It's absolutely amazing," Evans said.
He added he now has some sympathy for van Dongen’s complaints about the B.C. Liberal leadership.
When asked if he'd go visit van Dongen, Evans said, "I just might do that. I just might go visit the NDP. My options are open."