Farnworth out of the race

MP Fin Donnelly, MLA Mike Farnworth and MLA Selina Robinson. - photos submitted
MP Fin Donnelly, MLA Mike Farnworth and MLA Selina Robinson.
— image credit: photos submitted

Port Coquitlam MLA Mike Farnworth is out of the BC NDP leadership race.

On Tuesday, the opposition's finance critic cut short his second bid for his party's top job and swung his support behind Juan de Fuca MLA John Horgan.

"The decision I made was based on a number of factors and it was, at the end of the day, the right decision for myself and for the party. And I know we're going to be just fine with John Horgan as leader," Farnworth told The Tri-City News immediately after the announcement yesterday in Victoria.

Farnworth dropped out of the contest after it took an unusual — and somewhat nasty — turn last week when some incumbent and former Tri-City politicians turned their back on their local colleague and joined Horgan's campaign.

Last Friday, Horgan's team issued a press release after a meeting in Coquitlam with local NDP leaders, touting endorsements from New Westminster-Coquitlam MP Fin Donnelly, Coquitlam-Maillardville MLA Selina Robinson and former MLAs Joe Trasolini and Dawn Black, both of whom represented the Tri-Cities.

"We have to win in the Interior and we have to win in the suburbs if we are going to form government," Horgan stated in his news release Friday. "Selina, Joe, Dawn and Fin will be key to that effort and I’m so excited to have them join my team."

The Coquitlam meeting that was organized by Robinson — as well as the endorsements — created a wave of negativity, with many criticizing their decision not to support the hometown contender.

A photo of last Friday's meeting — showing Horgan with Coquitlam city councillors Chris Wilson, Bonita Zarrillo and Neal Nicholson, Port Moody Coun. Rick Glumac along with Black and Donnelly — was posted on Donnelly's Twitter account, with the word "Endorsed."

But on Monday, Wilson told The Tri-City News the meeting was simply to talk about local issues and he was backing Farnworth (he clarified his position via Facebook and Twitter). Zarrillo said on Monday she hadn't officially endorsed Horgan while Glumac was undecided; Nicholson is a Horgan supporter.

Still, their presence in the photo created a backlash on Twitter over the weekend, with followers questioning their loyalty and integrity. Among the critics were PoCo Mayor Greg Moore, who in 2005 ran for the BC Liberals against Farnworth.

"#Disappointing" and "#TriCitiesBestTogether" were Moore's hashtag sentiments.

Others were more blunt with their comments.

"A stunning betrayal. Says a lot about them," another Twitter follower complained, while Coquitlam Teachers' Association president Charley King also had harsh words online.

Responded Robinson, "Quite surprised at amount of bullying witnessed on #twitter even by adults. #morethanwearingapinkshirt."

Robinson spoke with The News after its print deadline, saying she gave Farnworth the heads-up about her endorsement for Horgan. "This was an agonizing decision for me," she said.

And MP Donnelly said he had met with both Farnworth and Horgan recently and found the latter to bring more "renewal" and "edge" to the party.

"It was a tough decision," Donnelly said. "They're both excellent candidates."

Farnworth campaign worker and Port Coquitlam Coun. Brad West said yesterday Robinson and Donnelly's actions will have an impact politically.

"In the aftermath of the other Tri-City endorsements, it is still clear that people in this community are very supportive of Mike," West said. "Mike has been the lead NDP voice in the Tri-Cities and has paved the way for many to get elected. He has earned respect for that."

Farnworth insisted the Tri-City endorsements for Horgan had nothing to do with his decision to pull out.

"I mean, they're individuals I've worked with and supported. Obviously, I would have hoped they would have supported me but they didn't and, hey, that's politics."

Farnworth had faced an uphill battle in the leadership race, gaining only two NDP caucus members' endorsements while Horgan had the majority of caucus on his side as well as support from CUPE BC, which represents 85,000 workers in more than 170 local unions.

After Dix announced he would step down this fall, Horgan initially said he would not seek the leadership, making way for younger contenders. But those contenders, including new MLAs elected in 2013, ruled themselves out one after another.

About a month before Horgan announced his candidacy, the executive board for CUPE BC, whose president Mark Hancock was formerly the president of CUPE 498 representing PoCo municipal workers, passed a motion to encourage Horgan to put his name forward; as a result, Horgan was unanimously endorsed, a CUPE BC spokesperson said. (Hancock did not return a call for comment.)

The party has a deadline of May 1 for candidates to be nominated for the leadership, which includes payment of $25,000 to go towards staging of leadership debates around the province. Candidates have until June 26 to sign up new party members, with a province-wide vote scheduled to be completed Sept. 28.

Both the BC NDP and BC Liberals finished 2013 in debt after last May's election. The Liberals raised $14 million and ended the year $2.2 million in debt while the NDP raised $11.6 million and had a $3-million debt.

– with files from Tom Fletcher, Black Press


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