The political landscape in the riding of Boundary-Similkameen has changed once again.
In the latest twist to an ongoing story, the B.C. NDP announced Monday that, effective immediately, their candidate, Marji Basso, had resigned. B.C. NDP provincial secretary Jan O’Brien said she received a letter from Basso Sunday, stating the candidate was stepping down for personal reasons.
Depending on how you count them, Basso’s resignation is the third for Boundary-Similkameen in the last week. On Jan. 14, MLA John Slater announced his resignation from the B.C. Liberal caucus, protesting the party’s refusal to endorse his candidacy for the upcoming spring provincial election.
Slater announced that not only would he be sitting as an independent for the remainder of his term, he would also be running as an independent candidate in the next election, a decision he reversed Monday.
Basso and Slater’s latest announcements also come just days after a mysterious blog post by political commentator Alex Tsakumis, who published a column last Thursday directed at both Slater and Basso, entitled “Please call me ASAP … I won’t wait past today.”
Tsakumis claimed to have “exceedingly disturbing information” about Slater and Basso that would hand the riding to Linda Larson, the new Liberal candidate, if released.
“The details of what I have are demonstrable proof that neither Basso nor Slater have the principled judgment to be in public life,” reads Tsakumis’ column, which requested both candidates call him before he decided to publish his information.
In response to an email questioning her on the subject of the Tsakumis column, Basso simply replied: “Trying to straighten it out now, thanks.”
For his part, Slater said Friday several factors had him rethinking his decision to stay in politics, though he did not include Tsakumis’ information.
“It’s been a brutal week. And you have to look at your health and your family and your friends and supporters,” he said. “I think I have done a really good job in my riding for the last four years, and we got a lot accomplished, but without that, for lack of a better word, support from Victoria, it’s going to be a lot more difficult.”
Slater said he wasn’t sure that he wanted to face four months of questions in the build up to the election in May.
“I am a little disillusioned, I don’t want to go through four months of garbage and rhetoric,” said Slater. “Life is too short, I am 61 next week and I am looking at it from John Slater’s perspective.”
While the B.C. Liberal party would only say that they felt Slater had “personal issues” that would “impact his ability to represent the party,” rumours came to light that Slater had issues with alcohol, something that both he and the local riding president, Zach Poturica, denied.
Tsakumis wouldn’t go on the record with what his information was, though he does say he has verified it and its release would have been damaging both personally and politically to the two candidates. He is, however, satisfied with the outcome, now that both Basso and Slater have resigned and he has no plans to release the information or continue with the story.
“I think that is the right thing for both of them to do,” said Tsakumis. “It just demonstrates that they both care more about their families than they do about being in public life. I think that’s refreshing.”
Tsakumis said that Slater contacted him in response to his blog post, though Basso only made contact indirectly.
“I spoke to John Slater, he called me and was very frank and honest. I appreciated that,” said Tsakumis, who lists among his credits that he is a former provincial aide and a political advisor to former premier Bill Vander Zalm during his time in office.
“She (Basso) never called me, she had her surrogates from the NDP central office call me,” continued Tsakumis.
Basso, who was nominated as the B.C. NDP candidate in August 2011, has not responded to interview requests to elaborate on her reasons for resignation. The 2013 election would have been her first provincial election, though she had been involved in municipal politics, serving two terms on Oliver council. She is also currently a teacher with School District 53.
Slater’s Monday press release cited “the politics of personal destruction” as his reason for reversing his decision to run as an independent.
“The past couple of weeks have been an extremely emotional roller coaster ride for me. This brutal experience has shown me how tough smear- and fear-based politics can be on people and their families. It is too high a price to pay, at least for me,” said Slater, in his release. “I cannot put my family or myself through the continual barrage of innuendos and smear which have been launched against me, and which will continue until I withdraw as a candidate in the upcoming provincial election. So I say, “Enough.”
Slater said he was grateful for both the trust the people of the riding placed in him when he was elected as MLA, as well as to those who supported him over the past couple of weeks.
“Finally, I apologize to those I am letting down by dropping out of the race. I hope you can understand why I cannot continue with my campaign. It is just too much,” said Slater.
Oliver Coun. Linda Larson is expected to be confirmed as the B.C. Liberal candidate on Feb. 2. The B.C. NDP said they would be working with the local NDP constituency association to begin the candidate nomination process as quickly as possible.
Had Slater continued with his intention to run as an independent, it is possible he would have split the right-wing vote sufficiently for the NDP to take Boundary-Similkameen. A similar situation occurred in 2009, when Slater won by a modest 811 votes over NDP candidate Lakhvinder Jhaj. In that case, the independent was Joe Cardoso, who the provincial Liberal executive removed as their candidate, replacing him with Slater.
“It’s mostly a fiscally conservative riding (Boundary-Similkameen). They are probably in need of a little shock therapy, or rather therapy for shock, the swing happened as quickly as it did,” said Tsakumis, who vacations in the area. “It’s a riding that doesn’t naturally lend itself to the NDP unless there is a split. And I don’t think there is going to be split now with Slater going home.”
(This article is an update to “Second candidate drops from race in Boundary-Similkameen,” published online on Jan. 22, 2013)