After 22 years in municipal and provincial office, Boundary-Similkameen MLA John Slater is leaving the political arena, hounded out, he says, by a smear campaign engineered by his former party, the governing B.C. Liberals.
On the same day, the New Democratic Party candidate who was nominated to run against Mr. Slater 18 months ago abruptly quit with little explanation.
Just four months before the provincial election campaign begins, both of the major parties are preparing last-minute nominations in a key battleground riding. Oliver municipal councillor Linda Larson will be acclaimed for the B.C. Liberals on Feb. 2, while the NDP has yet to set a date.
The 11th-hour shuffle is not unfamiliar to voters in this riding. Mr. Slater won the riding in 2009 with a modest 37 per cent of the vote. The B.C. Conservatives snapped up 20 per cent – the party's best result in that election – with candidate Joe Cardoso, who was dumped by the Liberals on the eve of the campaign. The New Democrats almost slipped up the middle, taking nearly 33 per cent in a riding considered a Liberal bastion.
Mr. Slater had expected to run again in the coming election under the Liberal banner – incumbents are rarely denied the opportunity – but he quit the caucus last week after the party refused to sign his nomination papers because of unspecified "personal issues."
He quickly made up his mind to run as an independent in May. But on Monday, Mr. Slater said he could not withstand the "politics of personal destruction" that ensued after his messy split with the party.
"This brutal experience has shown me how tough smear- and fear-based politics can be on people and their families," Mr. Slater said in a statement. "It is too high a price to pay, at least for me." Mr. Slater did not return phone calls.
Zach Poturica, who quit as the Liberal riding president over Mr. Slater's ouster, said even though party officials never publicly elaborated on their concerns, they left his Mr. Slater's personal life under a cloud.
Meanwhile, the New Democrats also declined to explain why Marji Basso, their candidate in Boundary-Similkameen, tendered her resignation on the weekend. Provincial secretary Jan O'Brien would say only that she was stepping down for personal reasons. The NDP would have likely benefited had Mr. Slater stayed in the race, but Ms. O'Brien said her party will still mount a strong challenge.