Abbotsford city councillor Moe Gill went from BC Liberal friend to foe Sunday, announcing he'll run as an independent in the upcoming provincial election against Finance Minister Mike de Jong in the Abbotsford West riding.
Gill's move against de Jong, a former political ally, came after being turfed out of the nomination process in theAbbotsford South riding in November by the Liberal party brass that then gifted it to UFV criminologist Darryl Plecas.
With de Jong's encouragement, Gill had originally started laying the groundwork years ago for the nomination in the Abbotsford South riding, long held by incumbent John van Dongen, also now a disgruntled former Liberal running as an independent.
Gill is unequivocal about his "betrayal" by the Liberal party and Mike de Jong in particular, but he said he set his sights on Abbotsford West because it made more sense than splitting votes in Abbotsford South with van Dongen.
"In Abbotsford West there's a vacancy for an independent," said Gill.
"And setting that [Liberal] betrayal aside, I have indicated I will be running and have community support in Abbotsford West. If you're getting a good response from the general public, that's always a good sign."
Gill said he's only had a very short conversation with de Jong since the nomination debacle occurred.
"He's on his own and I'm on my own," said Gill.
"After what happened to me, mending bridges is a too little too late.
"I've had no contact and have no interest in having contact. My loyalty was shown . . . and I don't think that loyalty was returned at the end."
De Jong was careful in his response to the announcement of Gill's challenge.
"Democracy is a participation sport, and I always respect people who decide to get involved," said de Jong.
"This has come about from a difficult circumstance, but now another name is on the ballot and people will be able to select who they want as an MLA."
De Jong, has held the riding since the 1994 by-election when he narrowly triumphed against veteran Social Credit candidate Grace McCarthy, partly thanks to help from Gill, a leader in the South Asian and farming communities who seconded his nomination papers.
However, now facing Gill, de Jong said he never takes the outcome of an election for granted and hopes achievements secured with the Liberals will be prominent in voters' minds.
"I've been honoured to represent my constituents and am proud of what we've achieved together," he said, pointing to the Abbotsford airport improvements, the Clearbrook and Mt. Lehman interchange projects and securing university status for UFV.
Gill said he has a large base of supporters from his 16 years of work throughout the city as a councillor. But he conceded a run against de Jong won't be easy.
"It's going to require a lot of work," he said.
"I'm going to be doing a lot of running around and convincing people I'm the right candidate and they have an opportunity to make a choice now."
As an independent, Gill noted he'll have the advantage of being able to speak for voters rather than adhere to a particular party line.
"I'll have the opportunity to be a strong voice."
- On Monday afternoon, the BC Conservatives named Paul Redekopp as their candidate for Abbotsford West. Redekopp, 43, lives in Abbotsford and is a community support worker with the Langley Association for Community Living.