The BC Liberal Party has decided it will not be holding a nomination meeting in the Chilliwack riding for the upcoming election.
That means that the incumbent, John Martin, will likely once again be the Chilliwack candidate in next month’s provincial election, although no candidates have been officially confirmed for the riding.
Diane Janzen, who had been working in earnest for the past year to become the one to challenge Martin as the BC Liberal candidate for Chilliwack, addressed the matter in a Sept. 20 letter to supporters, which was sent to the Chilliwack Progress:
“I was assured by the Party over the past year and up until a few days ago that they would authorize an open nomination if I could gather enough support from the members,” Janzen wrote.
At least 160 of her supporters had purchased party memberships in good faith that there would be an open nomination meeting in the riding for candidate selection.
But party officials notified Janzen Monday in a call that there would be no Chilliwack nomination meeting, regardless of the wishes of the membership, or what had been said in the past.
“Their intention was to appoint the incumbent; their rationale was that COVID and timing makes a nomination meeting impossible,” Janzen penned in the Sunday message, noting that she knows of other ridings where open nominations with COVID protocols were in fact going ahead.
She countered that party officials had seven months to organize a mail-in ballot or plan a socially distanced meeting like the ones planned for other ridings.
“Basically this whole thing was about giving 300 members their choice,” Janzen said about vying for the nomination. “It’s all I ever expected. I didn’t expect to be given this on a silver platter, just the chance to compete. If I had lost that vote I would have happily accepted the result.”
A BC Liberal official reiterated the pandemic rationale when The Progress asked about the reason why the party decided no nomination meeting would be held in Chilliwack.
“During the pandemic, we have held candidate selection meetings via mail-in ballot, which is what happened, as an example, in Oak Bay-Gordon Head and Vancouver-Point Grey,” stated BC Liberal spokesperson Shane Mills. “However, due to John Horgan’s power grab, we have had to select candidates to run in the 87 ridings throughout British Columbia.”
After Premier John Horgan made the election call on Monday, Sept. 21, Janzen posted her reaction on the Chilliwack nominee decision, which she likened to having the “rug yanked” out from under her team:
“I am deeply disappointed in the BC Liberal Party,” Janzen said. “They reneged on their promise of open democracy and denied the membership their right to choose a candidate through an open nomination process.”
Janzen is well known in Chilliwack as a former city councillor, former school trustee and chair of the Chilliwack School Board, and mostly recently in her role as executive director of Chilliwack Community Services.
Her supporters include a group of citizens who approached her last year, unhappy with their representation in Chilliwack.
After considerable thought, Janzen said she launched a year long effort to build support and seek the nomination. But over this past weekend, many of her supporters learned of the party’s position and decided to cancel their memberships and look to other parties.
“The members were denied their choice and let their concern be known to the Party by cancelling memberships and indicating that they will no longer be voting BC Liberal.”
“Chilliwack is normally a safe seat for the BC Liberals,” Janzen said, adding that may change given these most recent circumstances.
This was not the first attempt by Janzen, a party member, to run as a BC Liberal candidate.
Janzen stepped down as a Chilliwack city councillor to run as the federal Liberal Party candidate in the Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon riding in the May 2011 election. She placed third behind the New Democrats in that election which saw Mark Strahl take power, but her campaign organization was touted as a model by the party in its rebuilding process.
Janzen then decided in November 2011 to seek the BC Liberal nomination “to be a strong advocate for the needs of local constituents and to ensure strong leadership at the provincial level at a very difficult global economic time.” But she stepped away from pursuing the nomination for a seat under the BC Liberal banner about a month later over concern in the party about her chances, given her run earlier that year for the federal Liberals.