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Rob Shaw: B.C. NDP prepares for heated nomination battle in Vancouver

Endorsements fly as Reimer, Boyle battle for NDP nomination
Former Vision Vancouver councillor Andrea Reimer is seeking the B.C. NDP nomination in Vancouver-Little Mountain | File photo Dan Toulgoet

B.C. New Democrats are bracing for one of the most interesting, hotly contested nomination battles in recent party history, after the retirement of Environment Minister George Heyman on Monday kick-started a tight race to replace him in Vancouver-Little Mountain.

On the one side, former Vancouver city councillor Andrea Reimer. On the other, current city Coun. Christine Boyle. Both have New Democrat pedigrees and high public profiles. And both have eyes on a cabinet post in a re-elected NDP government.

But the race is already shaping up in interesting ways.

Heyman is attempting to hand off his seat to his preferred replacement, an old move some incumbents try on their way out the door. His retirement message contained an endorsement for Reimer. Reimer’s launch was choreographed to coincide with that announcement.

“I honestly cannot think of anyone I would be happier to see take my place as MLA,” Heyman said in a social media post that was ready to go for immediate deployment by the Reimer campaign.

Boyle, not to be outdone, launched with the endorsement of longtime New Democrat Libby Davies, a former local-area MP.

Boyle also holds the unspoken endorsement of Premier David Eby. The two are close family friends and Eby endorsed her for council. He’s pledged to remain neutral in the race. But make no mistake: Eby is team Boyle, and everyone knows it.

“I did meet the premier because I wanted to get a sense of what he’s excited about moving forward,” said Reimer, who is currently teaching at UBC and SFU, as well as running a consulting firm.

“And it ultimately felt like the right time.”

She said the current NDP government’s “bold and courageous” action on housing, climate and child care stand out, as does the prospect of being able to execute policy change at a practical level in what polls suggest could be an NDP landslide this fall.

The riding’s nomination date is set for April 4 — a tight window that avoids a lengthy fight inside the NDP family but also means candidates can’t sign up new members.

Reimer and Boyle will have to rely upon the support of the existing riding membership. The scenario benefits Reimer, who sits on the riding executive, co-chaired Heyman’s last election campaign and more directly knows the local members. She’s already been at it, with Heyman’s blessing, for weeks.

Boyle, on the other hand, is coming in cold from the outside.

“I have had folks asking me for a while now, friends and party members and constituents in this riding encouraging me to take this step,” said Boyle, a United Church minister and climate justice activist.

“This is a riding I’ve had long connections to. I was living in the riding when George Heyman was running in the nomination race 12 years ago, and I volunteered on Heyman’s nomination race. It’s the riding I was born in, and my family lived in when I was little, and worked with constituents across the riding for many years now on council.”

Technically, neither candidate lives in the riding (though Reimer lives right beside the border). Vancouver-Little Mountain is a redrawn version of Vancouver-Fairview, though a good chunk of Fairview now sits in the new Vancouver-South Granville, where Jobs Minister Brenda Bailey intends to run.

The only available nearby ridings where NDP candidacies remain vacant are Vancouver-Yaletown and Vancouver-Langara — and neither would be as easy to win for Reimer or Boyle as Vancouver-Little Mountain.

Both candidates say they welcome the nomination race, and respect each other.

“I think it speaks to the health of the party,” said Reimer.

“If anyone can model having a nomination race that is friendly and positive, I’m hopeful the two of us can,” said Boyle.

“The good news is that whoever wins, Vancouver-Little Mountain will have a strong champion.”

Of that, at least, there is no doubt. But it’s still going to be a fascinating race.

Rob Shaw has spent more than 16 years covering B.C. politics, now reporting for CHEK News and writing for Glacier Media. He is the co-author of the national bestselling book A Matter of Confidence, host of the weekly podcast Political Capital, and a regular guest on CBC Radio.

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