NDP need to look at electability
By Bill Phillips
The Conservatives have the middle-aged white guy demographic covered in Cariboo-Prince George so it’s understandable the New Democrats are going in a different direction.
So far three people – two women and a First Nations man – have put their names forward for the NDP nomination. Prince George residents Debora Munoz and Trent Derrick along with Williams Lake resident Laura Zimmerman are seeking the party nomination. Whoever wins the party nomination later this month will go up against Conservative Todd Doherty and whoever the Liberals and Greens put forward.
With incumbent Dick Harris not seeking re-election, the riding is, as they say, “in play.”
The key to whether the Conservative lock on things gets shattered lies in the candidates. For the past few elections neither the NDP or the Liberals have put forward a good, solid, electable candidate. And that makes the difference.
So, are any of the three seeking the NDP nomination electable?
Munoz has, at least, has been elected. She was elected to Prince George city council twice. However, following her involvement in the Brian Skakun document-release scandal, voters turfed her out of office in 2011 and a re-election bid in 2014 also came up short. She also sought the provincial NDP nomination in Nechako Lakes in 2012, but came up short.
She has been elected, but following her latest attempts, seems desperate to get back into politics.
Derrick has a similar path in terms of being elected. He ran, unsuccessfully, for city council in 2008 and again last year. So, having a couple of failed election bids under one’s belt makes it tough or, at the very least, provides some ammo for the competition.
However, Zimmerman, according to her website, hasn’t run for any kind of office before this. And, while we’re at it, neither has Doherty, the Conservative candidate. I don’t know much about Zimmerman and therein is her challenge … becoming known in Prince George.
When I lived in Williams Lake, I hated the fact that Prince George carried the day when it came to politics. It is, though, the reality. Politics is about name recognition.
Munoz certainly has name recognition, at least in Prince George, but that name carries some baggage. She has a strong labour movement involvement, so that can help her win the NDP nomination. However, more is needed to win the general election.
That’s where Derrick has some strength. He is not your stereotypical NDPer, in that he doesn’t come out of the labour movement. He is a business owner. That can be appealing to voters who don’t want to vote Conservative but aren’t enamoured with labour either.
Derrick is also First Nations. It could make him appealing to large segment of the riding’s population … a segment that doesn’t flock to the voting booth en masse. If Derrick can mobilize First Nations voters, it could make things very interesting.
Zimmerman’s website states she has a diploma in business administration and is a certified educational assistant.
She helps mental health patients back into communities or supported environments. She has also worked in an aboriginal high school, teaching life skills, nutrition, and mentoring. She moved to Williams Lake three years ago so, while she likely has support there, she needs to become known in Quesnel and Prince George to have a realistic shot at anything.
And the campaigning has definitely begun. I’ve seen Derrick at several community events over the past few months, usually in the company of Bobby Deepak, who ran for the NDP provincially in 2013 (another unsuccessful campaign). Getting known is half the battle. Munoz announced on her Facebook page that she was “recruited” by the federal NDP to run, inferring that she is the pick of party brass in Ottawa. Turns out it was a “key” member of the local riding association.
Are any of them electable? Local New Democrats have less than a month to decide and rather than looking at who best fits the party mold they should be looking at who is electable.
Then there are the Liberals, or not.
Bill Phillips is a freelance columnist living in Prince George. He was the winner of the 2009 Best Editorial award at the British Columbia/Yukon Community Newspaper Association’s Ma Murray awards, in 2007 he won the association’s Best Columnist award. In 2004, he placed third in the Canadian Community Newspaper best columnist category and, in 2003, placed second. He can be reached at email@example.com