Monday, August 09, 2004


Underbelly of Vancouver
Downtown Eastside


Has anyone read the latest issue of the Georgia Straight? Well if you haven't you must. There is an article on a potential contender for the provincial riding of Vancouver Kingsway, once held by the populist leader of the NDP, Glen Clark. Written by esteemed journalist Charlie Smith , the article presents as a soapbox for the testosterone driven union backers and former chief staffer to Premier Clark, Adrian Dix. These men who thrive on the scent of power, desire to capture the riding for the New Democrats in the provincial 2005 election. They will probably stop short of nothing to get their way.

Since polling numbers appear very strong for the NDP, is it any wonder that certain power players want to influence the outcomes for nominations in certain ridings. However I believe their motives are suspect. Why are they choosing to go up against women and in particualr women from visible minoity backgrounds? In their quest to gain advantage, a couple of heavy union boys are spreading the word that unions prefer Adrian Dix to be the nominee in the riding of Van- Kingsway. Of course Mr Dix, as any astute aspiring politician would do, claims he's flattered these boys want him. He also claims he's considering seeking the nomination.

My feeling though is the big bad boys are sharpening their knives. While their candidate of choice, Adrian Dix, is pretending to be lukewarm to the idea of running, you can bet Mr Dix behind the scenes, is busy rustling up support. Many folks remember Adrian as the up to his neck chief political aide who walked the plank in an effort to save the Premier. Of course we also know that Mr Dix even went so far as to alter memos in a last ditch desperate effort to save his job.

Relatively quiet for the last three years, the fix it guy Mr Dix, appears poised and ready to challenge a visible minority woman, Alicia Barsallo, who stands in his way for the nomination in Van-Kingsway. Ms Barsallo has almost single handedly re-built the Van- Kingsway riding for the NDP. In 2001 she was the NDP candidate for the riding. Ms Barsallo has been somewhat of a maverick in the new NDP party. She has god forbid, been the conscience for the grassroots, demanding that the party stick to its values, principles and policy. Ms Barsallo believes in grassroots democracy and has continually stood up and spoke out for the ordinary members who comprise the party.

For these heroic efforts, the governing body of the NDP, their provincial council, instead of embracing Ms Barsallo has chosen instead to isolate her. In an unprecedented and undemocratic move, the provincial council served notice to various ridings, executive members and grassroots members that from now on, provincial council would determine the processes and the how & whens of nomination meetings.

Of course, this autocratic decree by provincial council places power in the hands, of those who love power for the sake of power. Time and time again we have seen the likes of these blue suits in action. A most recent glaring example was the challenge to another exceptional candidate, May Woo-Sims who was seeking the nomination for the federal NDP in the riding of Van- Kingsway. Like Ms Barsallo, Mary Woo-Sims is also a women from a visible minority background.

As we know in the final few weeks of the campaign, certain power brokers in the NDP, probably not entirely comfortable with Ms Woo-Sims out status as a lesbian, enticed instead, very much in the closet Mr Ian Waddell, to come out of retirement and seek the nomination. Ms Woo-Sims as we know lost the nomination . Could this potential fate also happen to Ms Barsallo. The answer is probably yes.

In a society where women comprise 50% of the population, yet our political representatives, sadly doesn't come close to reflecting this reality. So why is this? Well from my perch it seems like the good ole boys in power suits and in the case of the NDP, along with their chainsaw carrying union buddies control the processes of electing candidates. The Mary Woo-Sims and Alicia Barsallo situations are examples of these run amok mongrels taking matters into their own hands.

Ms Barsallo has earned her stripes. She has been steadfast in her articulation of a better society for all. Her vision for equal rights and opportunities for women and minorities is an admirable challenge and cause. Ms Barsallo has earned the right to represent those in her constiuency who are underrepresented. And as a woman warrior, Alicia Barsallo knows the need for women to be in better position to better reflect our demographics.

Its now time for the NDP to consider appointing candidates who may encounter obstacles in obtaining nominations. Especially more so if they have proven their worth as Ms Barsallo or Ms Woo-Sims has. As leader of the NDP, Ms Carole James, a Metis women, surely must understand the dynamics of power politics. She must understand how women are at a disadvantage when it comes to the bloodsport game of politics. Ms James has a golden opportunity to level out the playing field.

I think its time in certain situations for women and visible minorities to be appointed as candidates by their leaders.

If Ms James truly wants a better reflected society in government, perhaps she should start by demonstrating what real readers are made of. I challenge her to start the ball rolling with Alicia Barsallo. Why - because Democracy deserves it!

Disclaimer - Jamie Lee Hamilton belongs to No provincial electoral party.

Jamie Lee Hamilton
(604) 781-3361