When the B.C. Liberals froze out Moe Gill for the party nomination in the Abbotsford South constituency last fall, they soured the long-standing friendship between the would-be candidate and cabinet minister Mike de Jong.
The two men went back 20 years together in the political arena.
Gill, a raspberry farmer and leader of the Indo-Canadian community, helped de Jong win his first byelection as a B.C. Liberal in 1994, a skin-of-his-teeth 42-vote victory over Social Credit legend Grace McCarthy in what proved to be her last hurrah in politics.
After de Jong was elevated to cabinet, Gill, by then an Abbotsford city council member, travelled to India with him on three separate trade missions, providing introductions.
Gill supported de Jong in what turned out to be a fourth-place finish in the B.C. Liberal leadership race in 2011.
De Jong reciprocated by encouraging Gill to seek the Liberal nomination in Abbotsford South, then held by John van Dongen, a maverick MLA increasingly on the outs with new premier Christy Clark.
When van Dongen left the caucus last spring, Gill, believing he had de Jong's tacit support, moved to take control of the Liberal riding association in Abbotsford South.
Then the blindsiding.
Turned out the folks at Liberal party headquarters had their eye on criminologist Darryl Plecas as a replacement for van Don-gen. Gill was flatly refused the chance to go head-to-head with Plecas for the nomination and pressured to run in a neighbouring riding. He agreed, then reversed himself, believing the last-minute bid for the other nomination was beyond reach, and instead went public with his humiliation.
"They pulled the rug out from under my feet (and) I've been working for this party for a long time, " Gill told reporter Christina Toth of the Abbotsford Times.
He expressed disgust that his pal Mike de Jong had failed to come to his aid.
"I treated him like a brother but I don't think I will shake his hand anymore."
Where was de Jong in all this? Dispensing sympathy but little else. He stood four-square with the party brass at the Nov. 22 meeting where the Liberals completed the coronation of Plecas as the party nominee.
"On a night of celebration, we're also aware there are members of the family who could be hurting," said de Jong. "It's our job to lift those people up, to bring them back in. What links us as free enterprisers is more important than the obstacles ... that temporarily drive us apart. The goal we share is bigger than any one of us individuals."
Later, he told reporter Toth that he'd been unaware of what was happening with Gill and he'd be reaching out to him "in my own quiet way."
To no avail, as it turned out.
"We will exact our revenge," one of Gill's supporters had vowed after the freeze-out of his man in Abbotsford South. "Just watch us." And so they did.
The watching game ended Wednesday morning with a press release headed, "Moe Gill fights back for our community! Moe Gill says 'no' to the Liberal leadership team."
Instead he'd be running as an independent candidate in Abbotsford West, bailiwick of - yes! - his former friend Mike de Jong.
With Gill planning to make the formal announcement of his intentions this Sunday, the release supplied his rationale for the decision to run as an independent and not in Abbotsford South.
"As most of you know, Moe had intended to run as a member of the Liberal Party but he, along with others to follow, were treated with great disrespect by the Liberal leadership team."
Rubbing it in, the release went on to say that after his own rough treatment at the hands of the party, "Moe Gill gained great respect, understanding and support for John van Dongen and his decision to leave the party and run as an independent.
"All of which must be enormously satisfying to van Don-gen. For awhile there, it looked as if Gill was coming after him with de Jong's backing. Now, thanks to the party's clumsy handing of things, Gill is instead going after de Jong.
Apart from the delicious irony, this latest development in Abbotsford comes just a week after that ugly episode in Boundary-Similkameen, where the Liberals forced out incumbent MLA John Slater, over undefined personal failings.
All part of the Liberal drive for "renewal," a sometimes heavy-handed effort that has been part of a roughly 40-per-cent turnover in the caucus lineup that the current premier inherited from her predecessor.
Still, to keep these events in perspective, one also has to note the outcomes of earlier nomination flaps.
Remember Bob Chisholm, Allan Warnke, Jeremy Dalton, Paul Nettleton and Bonnie McKinnon? Each was elected as a Liberal. Each sought re-election as an independent. They all lost.
Moe Gill is probably headed for footnote status in the coming campaign as well. But for now, he provides another cause for controversy among Liberals, another embarrassment that the governing party surely didn't need.
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