A date has finally been set for the NDP nomination in the Fraser-Nicola riding, with prospective candidates Harry Lali and Aaron Sam set to find out on March 18 which one of them will challenge incumbent Liberal MLA Jackie Tegart in the provincial election on May 9.
Tegart was the first Liberal in the province to secure her party’s nomination, back in May 2016. In that same month, four-time MLA and former Minister of Transportation Lali announced he would be seeking the NDP nomination for the riding.
However, it appeared that Lali was not the party’s candidate of choice, as the NDP attempted to find another potential nominee to challenge him. The effort paid off in December 2016, when Sam, chief of the Lower Nicola Band, announced his candidacy and said that he had been asked by the party to run.
Two weeks ago, NDP leader John Horgan admitted to a reporter that he had spoken to Lali about the prospects in the constituency, and whether or not the veteran politician was the best candidate for the job. “I talked to him about the new candidate in the region who is young, dynamic, and someone who would be a new representative for the region,” said Horgan.
In follow-up comments a few days later, Horgan said that the party had signed Lali’s nomination papers, and that he and Lali still remained friends. “I’ve known Harry for a long time.”
It is a position that Lali echoes. “John Horgan and I are still friends,” he says. “There’s no animosity. He asked me to step aside as a friend, but I carry no ill-will. You have to have thick skin at the provincial politics level. That’s why someone like me has survived so long. I can go with the punches.”
He admits that while he doesn’t mind either way, he would have preferred the nomination meeting to take place sooner rather than later. “It isn’t unusual to have the nomination so close to the election, because you can want the momentum of the nomination going into the election.
“On the other hand, some want it earlier so they can start door-knocking. I’d prefer if it was already done, to get people in place and get fundraising. It means [the election campaign] is a 100-yard dash rather than a marathon.”
Lali feels he has an excellent chance of securing the NDP nomination. “If I felt for even one second that there was someone better than myself to defeat Jackie Tegart, I would have stepped out in a second. Politics is a life passion for me. I believe in public service. Politics is a noble calling, not a job.”
He reiterates his belief, expressed to The Journal in December 2016, that constituents need to ask whether they want an experienced hand or a novice running for the NDP in Fraser-Nicola, a riding which is looked on as a key swing seat. When reminded that he was once a novice, he has a quick answer.
“You have to earn your stripes. I’ve been a lifelong New Democrat. I was an activist, always helping the NDP in terms of raising funds, even before I became a card-carrying member in 1988 [he was first elected as an MLA in 1991]. I earned my dues. No one tapped me on the shoulder to run. Local members wanted me, and that’s what NDP members of the constituency association want: a candidate who has paid their dues.”
When the NDP lost the provincial election in 2013, Lali blamed the defeat in part on the party’s negative stance toward pipeline expansion and development. He says he now supports the party’s opposition to the twinning of the Kinder Morgan pipeline, which has been approved by the federal and provincial Liberal parties.
“Christy Clark has washed her hands of it and turned it over to the federal government; put the consultation and environmental issues into their lap. Whether I support the project or not, two things are paramount: a made-in-B.C. environmental assessment, and a proper consultation so as not to run roughshod over Aboriginal rights and local communities that will be impacted. We have to get buy-in.”
Lali says that if he gets the nomination, he knows he will be in for a fight. “It’s always tough to take out an incumbent, but I’ve been planning for four years. We at the local level have taken, and will take, responsibility for the little things, and work out plans, strategies, and tactics to make sure the little things don’t go sour.
“Someone with a passion for politics, and an experienced fighter, is needed to take on Jackie Tegart; not an inexperienced person. I’ve been around for a long time. I have to go out there and do what I have to do, not worry about what’s happened in the past. I have to look forward, and will be going full blast to ensure we defeat the Liberals.”
The nominee will be determined by NDP party members in Fraser-Nicola. While people can still join the party, only those who have been members for 90 days or more prior to March 18 will be able to vote for a nominee.