The race for the B.C. NDP nomination in Victoria-Beacon Hill riding will likely be more competitive than the election itself, says political scientist David Black.
Black, who teaches at Royal Roads University, said Victoria-Beacon Hill has consistently elected an NDP leader — including Carole James, the current finance minister.
James announced in March that she would not be seeking re-election following a diagnosis of Parkinson’s, a progressive neurological disease.
She has held the seat since 2005. The riding was created before the 1991 election, and has been represented by an NDP MLA since then, except for one four-year term won by Jeff Bray for the B.C. Liberals in 2001. In its earlier incarnation, the riding was “an NDP enclave” going back to the 1970s, Black said.
Two people have said they plan to run for the nomination: Stephanie Papik, a civil servant and small business owner, and Grace Lore, a community organizer and lecturer at the University of Victoria.
Papik, who has an Inuk father and Australian mother, said she hadn’t considered running for office until she was approached by community members who suggested she put her name forward. She was sad to hear that James wouldn’t run for re-election, particularly because the finance minister is one of few Indigenous people in the legislature.
Papik sees the province’s pressing problems — homelessness, the overdose crisis and climate change — as symptoms of a western approach to governing, and said the province is in an exciting time after the passing of the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
“What’s being called for, to be able to step into that space, is lived experience in terms of walking both in a western world and seeing and understanding the world in a western way, as well as seeing and understanding the world through Indigenous lenses. And so that, you know, that’s my whole career,” Papik said.
Lore is an educator at UVic and a researcher at the University of British Columbia. She teaches gender and politics, Canadian politics, and research methods. She is also a community organizer on issues including affordable housing and child care and a front-line volunteer and long-time anti-violence advocate at the Victoria Sexual Assault Centre.
Lore remembers watching James deliver the 2017 budget update, including an investment in dental care for children living in poverty, and feeling inspired by a government that she saw putting people at the centre of decision-making. She said she sees running for office as a way to continue her work on housing, anti-violence, and childcare.
“This is the combination of my academic and advocacy work and a love of this community. I’m seeking the nomination to continue that work,” Lore said.
Premier John Horgan said Monday he will miss James “more than I can possibly say.”
He sidestepped a question about whether he has a preferred candidate.
“When I think about Victoria-Beacon Hill, I think of Carole James,” Horgan said. “She’s lived there forever, raised her family, raised numerous other peoples’ children, and that’s what I think about when I think of Victoria-Beacon Hill.”
Horgan ignited election speculation last week when he said the Green caucus his party made an agreement with three years ago to form a minority government has changed.
A fixed election date is set for the fall of 2021.