Whoever wins March 6, it will be a Maple Ridge resident running for the New Democrats next federal election.
That’s the date for the nomination meeting that will choose either Craig Speirs or Elizabeth Rosenau to challenge Conservative MP Randy Kamp.
“I think my appeal is across the board,” said Speirs, a veteran of Maple Ridge council who’s filing his federal nomination papers this week in attempt to contest the Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge-Mission riding.
Speirs says he’s a social and environmental activist who gets lots of support from all sides of the political spectrum. “It’s time we had somebody who’s fighting for improvements, instead of fighting for the status quo and I think it’s broken and needs to be changed.”
Kamp has defeated the previous NDP candidate, Mike Bocking, in three elections – 2004, 2006 and 2008.
Each time, the Liberals ran as a strong third party, although they dropped considerably last election.
Both NDP candidates have said they’ll support the other, whoever takes the nomination.
Speirs, who’s president of the B.C. Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows riding, said previously that while he’s not tired of municipal politics after serving 12 years, “you constantly need to challenge yourself. You constantly need to challenge authority, especially if it’s yourself.”
He disagrees with the Conservatives on many issues and says Canada’s immigration policy is “something out of a tin-pot dictatorship.”
The government’s Bill C-49, which proposes to put those who arrive by human smuggling in jail for up to a year, is too harsh for him. The same goes for a proposal to deny permanent residency and family sponsorship for five years for refugees such as the Tamils.
“I don’t think making a rule like that benefits the country in the long term. It puts people in limbo,” he said of the latter.
Both Speirs and Rosenau criticize the Ministry of Fisheries and Oceans and Kamp, as parliamentary secretary to that department, for their response to the May 2009 fish kill in the North Alouette River and Golden Eagle Group’s installation of an illegal water pipe into that river.
The company denies any connection between the two.
Speirs says Fisheries should have charged the company and that the federal government isn’t supporting the department. “DFO has been strangled by a lack of money and it can’t function.”
Kamp, he says, has sat on the back bench and not done much.
For Rosenau, “The fish kill should have been investigated immediately. All of that happened in Randy Kamp’s riding, on his watch.
“That’s the sign, to me, of a pretty weak politician,” someone who can’t get answers for his constituents, she added.
Both candidates say the NDP have a good chance in Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge-Mission. Speirs figures there’s an 80-per-cent chance of an election this spring, while Rosenau thinks it’s more 50-50.
“I think Canadians are waking up as to what [Prime Minister Stephen] Harper is all about,” Rosenau said.
“I really feel that Canada, under Harper’s regime, is losing its democracy.”
The right to dissent is being chipped away, Rosenau added.
She was prompted to run after her daughter Elizabeth Gray’s arrest while protesting last June’s G20 summit in Toronto.
Gray was peacefully protesting environmental issues when she was shot with two rubber bullets and, along with hundreds of others, arrested, locked up, strip searched and held without access to family or lawyers for 30 hours. She is now suing the Toronto police department.
The Ontario Office of the Independent Police Review Director has launched a comprehensive review of the G20 events.
The Toronto Police Service has also already begun an independent civilian review into the conduct of their officers, including allegations of unlawful searches and arrests.
Rosenau’s daughter was well aware of her civil rights “and her rights didn’t matter one bit,” Rosenau said.
Charges of obstruction were all later dropped.
Rosenau said she was dismayed by the lack of response from all political parties about what she described as the “criminalization of dissent.”
Then she heard NDP Don Davies call for an inquiry this summer and phoned the local New Democrat association. She decided to put in her name after learning no one else had yet to do so. The party has a good track record of fighting for democracy, she added.
“By that point, I was so deeply concerned about the fact that my daughter had been criminalized.”
Rosenau pointed out that Harper won’t talk to media scrums or the press gallery and has only a few favourite journalists to which he’ll grant interviews.
Peter Mansbridge’s interview with Harper this week on CBC left many questions unasked.
“I’m sure all those questions were decided in advance.”
Some topics that didn’t get touched were why Canada was rejected for a seat on the UN security council, why was there no public inquiry into the G20 protest and the government’s decision to extend Canada’s stay in Afghanistan beyond 2011.
“He [Harper] also muzzles more and more people in his own party.”
Rosenau has been an NDP member off and on over the years, but this is the first time she’s running for election.