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Fishing in a deeper pool

Katy Merrifield on the BC Liberals' new candidate recruitment program
Andrew Wilkinson, in happier days.

For the first time, the BC Liberal Party is embarking on a brand new, wide-open, proactive recruitment drive for potential candidates from all corners of British Columbia.

Full disclosure: I’m fully involved in this initiative – and I’m glad we’re doing it.

We know women, millennials, and BC’s diverse communities are still under-represented in the legislature. The question is what to do about it

We think the best place to start is eliminating the middleman.

That’s the idea behind taking our recruitment efforts – Ready to Run – to the public, reaching out to talented, passionate, free-enterprise individuals who may have considered running for office before, but didn’t know how to get involved.

So far it’s been a tremendous success, with 160 applications from passionate individuals from all over BC. That’s in just two weeks – more than 11 per day.

If you’re reading this and screaming “quotas,” let me assure you here and now: no.

We have vigorously opposed measures like the NDP’s clumsy, regressive, and self-limiting equity mandate since its inception. But it’s not enough to say “that’s a bad idea.” Every political party across the country is realizing the same thing: we can all do a better job at embracing diversity through merit.

Most, if not all, political parties recruit candidates the same way. Every party has their “star” candidate list – think media types and retired sports heroes – where provincewide notoriety has already been established and the candidate is nearly always viewed as a shoo-in based on their quasi-celebrity status.

But in politics, as in life, stars are not the norm.

Usually, local riding associations and MLAs scan their communities and suggest people with profile – local business leaders or community activists, for example.

On paper, there’s nothing particularly wrong with this approach – it’s certainly found a lot of tremendous and successful candidates – but it’s arguably a bit antiquated.

The biggest problem is the blind spot.

Those who aren’t traditionally engaged in politics – women, millennials and people from underrepresented communities – have historically been overlooked in this process.

It can’t be overstated: this is not by design. But by removing real or perceived barriers, we can not only recruit from a broader base, but ensure “potential” doesn’t get overlooked for “profile.”

By allowing folks direct submission through online ads or a visit to the BC Liberals website, anyone can easily express their interest in less than five minutes from the comfort of their couch.

Frankly, every job application outside of the political sphere begins with a direct submission to the employer followed by an evaluation of merit, and ends with a job offer or a polite rejection.

Applicants don’t need an endorsement from Susan in accounting in order to be considered first. Why should political candidacy be any different?

If you have what it takes to be the next MLA in your community, visit and register your interest.

Katy Merrifield was B.C.’s first – and so far, only – female director of a successful major party leadership campaign, and a former Executive Director of the BC Liberal Party. She’s currently Senior Advisor, Election Readiness for the BC Liberal Party.