BC New Democrat’s affirmative action rules mean some Caucasian males not allowed to run for party

Andy Radia

In at least one electoral district in British Columbia, older Caucasian males are being told they need not apply to run for the New Democrats in the next provincial election.

Maple Ridge, B.C. city councillor, Craig Speirs, is a long-time left-leaning activist who, in a perfect world, would likely run for the NDP nomination in his hometown.

As Michael Smyth of the Vancouver Province describes it, however, there's just one problem: "he's a straight, old, able-bodied, white guy."

According to the BC NDP's affirmative-action rules, that makes him ineligible to run in the next election in his own riding. The NDP's equity rule, mandates the next NDP candidate in Maple Ridge must be a woman, or a member of an under-represented group: "Persons of colour, gay/lesbian/bi/transgender people, youth, aboriginal peoples and persons with disabilities."

In Canada's parliament 9.4 per cent of MPs are visible minorities, compared with 16.2 per cent of Canada's population. That's a slight improvement from the 40th Parliament, where visible minorities made up 6.8 per cent of the House.

Of more concern is that women, who make up approximately 50 per cent of the population, only hold 24.7 per cent of the seats in the House of Commons.

Ujjal Dosanjh, British Columbia's first visible minority Premier and former cabinet minister when Paul Martin was Prime Minister, says while he admires the B.C. NDP's attempts at righting the inequities in the legislature, he questions the validity of a quota system.

"I think quotas ultimately don't work. They breed resentment; there's always an unhealthy public reaction to it," Dosajh said in a 2008 interview with Mehfil Magazine.

"Rather than saying we should have a quota, we should encourage people to get into politics in other ways. You need to encourage people to be active; you approach people. We did that during my time in B.C. and it worked."