Skip to content
Join our Newsletter

Les Leyne: NDP leadership power play not exactly democratic

It’s time for the NDP to put up or shut up.
Anjali Appadurai is trying to be a candidate for B.C. NDP leader. via B.C. NDP

Despite the fact the word is right in their name, the New Democratic Party starts an inordinate amount of controversies when it comes to democratic mechanisms.

They held a referendum in 2018 on changing the voting system that was notable for how many ways the exercise was skewed to produce the desired result.

Two years later, Premier John Horgan called an election that violated the spirit of the law that determined fixed dates for elections, and shredded the signed confidence agreement the NDP had with the B.C. Greens, which stipulated the partnership would run the full four-year term.

Now the NDP is in the middle of a leadership vote and it’s turned into another dubious exercise. For reasons that may or may not be valid, the party is executing a power play that could sideline a controversial anti-establishment leadership candidate.

The simmering unease about 32-year-old climate emergency activist Anjali Appadurai’s long-shot challenge to what was supposed to be former attorney general David Eby’s coronation burst into full public view over the weekend.

Internal suspicions have mounted for weeks that her candidacy, despite the fact she’s a full-fledged New Democrat who once sought a federal nomination, is a hostile takeover attempt engineered largely outside the party. The specific allegation is that she’s borrowing members of the Greens on a short-term basis to pack the NDP membership list in her favour.

Rumours have also been swirling that it’s working — that she has signed up a respectable number of new members.

The depth of that concern burst into public view Friday, when the NDP sent a letter to the B.C. Green Party asking it to submit the membership list to a neutral third party so NDP and Green lists can be cross-checked.

The NDP says “our usual audit of our membership list before a leadership vote has revealed a significant number of current and former B.C. Greens applying for membership in the B.C. NDP.

The party said those individuals “have told us directly that they told the BC Greens to temporarily suspend their memberships so they could … vote in our leadership election and then return to your party.”

The NDP said that’s “fraudulent.”

So the NDP’s idea was that a referee would compile the two parties’ membership lists as they stood in June before the leadership race started, and as they stood the day nominations closed Sept. 5.

That would produce two lists of suspects: People who were Green in June, but NDP on Sept 5: and people who were members of both parties on Sept. 5. The latter would break party rules, but neither circumstance breaks election law.

The presumptuous idea was dead on arrival. Greens rejected it on privacy concerns.

Leader Sonia Furstenau said Tuesday, “I was quite surprised at the request and the tone. In no way would we encourage any members to join another party.

“It seems like the NDP doesn’t like the way the leadership race is unfolding and is casting around for someone to blame for it.”

After being rebuffed by the Greens, the NDP issued a sulky statement with some dark warnings.

“We continue to receive information alleging Green members are being permitted to pause their membership in order to participate in the NDP leadership race, and being encouraged by Green Party staff to continue their monthly donations while pursuing membership in the NDP.

“If a significant portion of the Green membership is attempting a hostile takeover of the NDP … we would wonder whether it puts its status as a registered political party in jeopardy.”

Appadurai has denied any wrongdoing throughout.

It’s time for the NDP to put up or shut up. Anonymous reports and vague references to “receiving information” aren’t going to cut it.

The party brass needs to release hard proof that this crossover is happening on a significant scale. Otherwise it looks like the party is trying to snuff out a challenger’s bid just on the basis the brass don’t like her.

The NDP isn’t the only party to experience some drama in its leadership contest. It’s hard to find one anywhere at any level of government that hasn’t.

But this one is unprecedented in terms of the manouvre that is suspected. There’s a chance this leadership race could detour to B.C. Supreme Court before it’s decided.