George Heyman is welcoming prominent city councillor Geoff Meggs to the race to become the NDP candidate in Vancouver-Fairview, but says he has an edge because he has been organizing since July.
“I think I am a strong candidate. I expect to win. I think I have a big lead in campaigning,” said Mr. Heyman, who seriously considered a bid for the leadership of the provincial New Democrats in 2010.
On Friday, Mr. Heyman, the former president of the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union and now executive director of the Sierra Club of B.C., praised Mr. Meggs as a candidate of ideas and experience.
But Mr. Heyman noted that he has been working the riding held by Labour Minister Margaret MacDiarmid for quite some time now.
His comments indicate a tough fight ahead between two leading New Democrats as they seek entry into provincial politics for the May, 2013, provincial election. New Democrats in Fairview will make their choice in October.
The NDP is running far ahead of the governing Liberals in the polls.
“I’ve been out on the streets in Fairview knocking on doors with members, and meeting people and signing them up into the party to support my [candidacy],” Mr. Heyman said.
“It’s unfortunate that it seems, for both of us, that Fairview seems to be the place available for us to run, but I am going to continue doing what I have been doing for the last several months.”
Mr. Meggs, first elected to city council in 2008 as a member of the majority Vision Vancouver party, conceded that he has work to do.
“There’s no doubt George is a redoubtable candidate. He’s the former president of the BCGEU and he’s been working on it for a year. I am not taking anything for granted,” he said, adding that it’s “far from a given” that he can win the nomination.
On Friday, members of the Non-Partisan Association, which has two council members, accused Mr. Meggs of deserting the voters who elected him six months ago, and asked whether Mr. Meggs was thinking about seeking the nomination when he ran municipally.
Elizabeth Ball, one of the two NPA councillors, said she doubted Mr. Meggs could balance his municipal responsibilities with seeking the provincial nomination.
“What’s going to be more important: the job you want or the job you have won?”
She also said the departure of Mr. Meggs, who has been at the forefront of transportation issues and the debate over tearing down Vancouver’s downtown viaducts, would be a blow to Vision.
But Mr. Meggs said Mayor Gregor Roberston, who represented the riding as an MLA before moving to municipal politics, has a strong team.
“There are tremendous capabilities there. I am sure he will be fine,” he said.
None of the other Vision members of council are expected to make the jump to provincial politics, said a senior source within the municipal party.
Mr. Robertson was unavailable for comment on Friday, but said in a statement that he expected Mr. Meggs would act with the city’s interests in mind.
“Geoff Meggs has been and continues to be an excellent public servant and I know he'll continue to work in the best interests of Vancouver,” the mayor said.
Mr. Meggs, who was a communications director for premier Glen Clark, said he won’t resign from council unless he wins the provincial seat.
“I am committed to working 100 per cent on civil matters as I promised the voters I would do unless the voters of Fairview decide I, after getting nominated, that I should serve in Victoria, at which point I will resign,” he said.
Mr. Meggs said he no longer lives in the riding because boundary changes in 2009 shifted it a block away from his home of 25 years. “I didn’t move. The boundaries moved.”
Neither Ms. MacDiarmid or Mr. Heyman live in the riding.
Ms. MacDiarmid said she will take on whoever wins the NDP nomination.
“I have gotten my team ready. We’ve fundraised, and I love my riding,” she said.
Ms. MacDiarmid said she has no control over who the NDP selects, so she is not worrying about that decision, but preparing for a tough race.
While the Liberals are running behind the NDP now, she said anything can happen in the B.C. political dynamic between now and next May.
“I’ll work hard and won’t take anything for granted,” said Ms. MacDiarmid, who has already begun door knocking.
She won the riding by 47 per cent compared to 42 per cent for her NDP rival in 2009.