John Slater, MLA for Boundary-Similkameen, announced via twitter Monday that he was resigning from the B.C. Liberal caucus and would be sitting as an independent for the remainder of his term.
Slater had expected to run for the party again, but said that the party had refused to endorse his candidacy papers.
B.C. Liberal president Sharon White confirmed Slater will not be the party’s candidate in Boundary-Similkameen for the next election, which occurs in May 2013. In a press release issued within an hour of Slater’s announcement, White said that last month Slater “informed colleagues that he would not seek re-election,” but had reconsidered in the past week.
“The party sought a co-operative solution through discussions with John. This is not a decision taken lightly and is fully considered,” said White.
Slater denied that discussions had taken place, saying instead, party officials had misled him into agreeing to step down in December, presenting him with polls, which Slater feels were falsified, showing that he had little chance of winning the riding again.
“I thought if they want to force me out, let’s make them force me out,” said Slater, who then decided to give the provincial executive a deadline to endorse him. “On last Tuesday I had a meeting with my board, my executive and they said no, John, we want you to run, we are behind you 100 per cent.”
The party’s response however, was negative.
“They said ‘no, we have no intention of letting you run,’” said Slater. The Liberal party press release gives no reason for their not endorsing Slater, stating only that his “candidacy is not being approved due to personal issues that, in our view, impact his ability to represent the party.”
Slater, has, at times, been publicly critical of party policies, such as in during the HST debate, and he feels that may have been a factor.
Mike McDonald, executive director for the Liberal party, refused to elaborate on the nature of the personal issues.
“We have tried to avoid that and tried to work with John to come to a co-operative solution, which we thought we had arrived at in December in terms of him agreeing not to run and announce it on his own terms,” said McDonald. However, speculation has begun to swirl that the “personal issues” may be due to Slater having a problem with alcohol.
“I have been know to have a few drinks, yes,” said Slater. “It’s never been in the press, it’s never been an issue that way. It’s not like a DUI or something like that.”
Slater said that alcohol has never influenced his judgment at caucus or any other meetings.
“I am an animated person at the best of times and if I have a few beer, I get more animated. Maybe that is what they are talking about,” said Slater. “You can go around my constituency, all the meetings that I go to, week in, week out, that’s never a problem in my riding.”
Slater said he has had a positive effect on the riding as MLA, and expected to win re-election.
“I feel a little bit hurt by this whole thing. I am letting down my constituents more than anything,” said Slater. “I worked my butt off for them and a lot of good things happened … there are all kinds of things that are going to be really positive.”
Now that he won’t be the Liberal candidate for the riding, Slater thinks the NDP may claim the Boundary-Similkameen riding.
“I think it’s a shoe-in,” Slater said. “It depends on what I do too. If I run independent or something, then that is going to split the right vote and allow the NDP to come in full blast.”
While he wouldn’t confirm that former Oliver mayor Linda Larson was a possible replacement for Slater, McDonald said the party plans to move quickly and attract a candidate that can consolidate right-wing support and stabilize their candidacy there.
“We’ve tried to work respectfully on this. We respect John’s contributions,” said McDonald. “We respect what he has done over the years in the valley and we know he’s been a big presence there. But we just simply couldn’t move forward with an approval based on the personal issues.”
– Steve Kidd, Black Press