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B.C. NDP leadership hopeful warns party against ‘nuclear option’ of disqualifying her

Appadurai denies her campaign has done anything wrong
B.C. NDP leadership candidate Anjali Appadurai pauses for a moment as she addresses the media during a news conference in downtown Vancouver, Wednesday, October 19, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

B.C. New Democratic Party leadership hopeful Anjali Appadurai is urging the party executive not to use what she called an undemocratic “nuclear option” to disqualify her, a move that would make David Eby the sole contender to become the next premier.

Party executives were expected to decide later Wednesday whether Appadurai can stay in the contest to replace Premier John Horgan.

A report from the NDP’s chief electoral officer, Elizabeth Cull, obtained by The Canadian Press, recommends Appadurai be disqualified over alleged breaches of contest rules, such as an alliance with an environmental group and the wooing of former B.C. Green Party members.

Appadurai denies her campaign has done anything wrong. She says they used grassroots organizing to sign up thousands of new members to vote in the race — significantly more than Eby, the former attorney general and minister responsible for housing.

“And so the party had a choice. Let all the members of the party, new and old, choose the next leader and risk having a climate champion in the premier seat or take this undemocratic approach and disqualify the candidate,” Appadurai said at a news conference in Vancouver on Wednesday.

“It’s distressing that they have taken the nuclear option, that risks ripping the party apart, further alienating the grassroots, tainting the new administration, and damaging the NDP chances in the next election in 2024.”

Cull’s report found there was “improper co-ordination” between the Appadurai campaign and the environmental group Dogwood BC, which used mass emails, text messages, social media and phone banks as part of a drive to recruit NDP supporters.

In a statement, Dogwood denies it broke any rules.

“Dogwood’s signup drive followed multiple conversations with Elections BC compliance officers,” the statement says.

“Third parties like unions, businesses, faith groups and NGOs are allowed to encourage supporters to join a political party. Social movements are core to grassroots democracy in B.C., and signup drives are part of every leadership race.”

Cull also found Dogwood solicited “fraudulent memberships” by encouraging members of other political parties to join the B.C. NDP.

Appadurai said there’s no evidence to support that claim.

“There is nothing wrong when someone joins our party from another party hoping that under new leadership, the party will embrace a more ambitious direction,” she said.

“There’s equally nothing wrong with that person cancelling their membership and joining another party if our party doesn’t elect their preferred candidate.”

According to Cull’s report, an audit of five per cent of the B.C. NDP membership as it stood on July 1 found 98.5 per cent of the members contacted were deemed to have valid memberships.

A spot check of new membership applications found only 72 per cent of the individuals contacted were deemed to have valid memberships, she reported.

Eby said he has been focused on touring the province.

“The party has their process around ensuring the fairness of the race. They’re gonna focus on that process. I have confidence in them to be able to do that,” he said at an event in Vancouver.

—Ashley Joannou, The Canadian Press

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