By on January 24, 2013

In one of the most bizarre days in South Okanagan political history, two of the three candidates running in the Boundary-Similkameen riding in the May provincial election resigned within an hour of each hour Monday afternoon.
Marji Basso, an Oliver school teacher who has been on leave for several months, has abruptly resigned as the NDP candidate for Boundary-Similkameen citing “personal reasons.”
The NDP issued a statement announcing the decision Monday, about an hour after incumbent MLA John Slater announced he will not be running as an independent. Slater was dropped last week as the Liberal candidate on the grounds of unspecified “personal issues.”
Slater released a tersely worded statement Monday saying he would not run as an independent in the upcoming election, citing the “politics of personal destruction” as his reason.
Basso did not return calls before the Osoyoos Times went to press Tuesday afternoon and the NDP statement did not explain the reason for her resignation.
An NDP official from the party’s provincial headquarters also declined to elaborate.

The resignations, however, follow a posting by blogger Alex G. Tsakumis Jan. 17 in which he claimed to possess “very disturbing information, exceedingly disturbing information that, if published, will hand the provincial riding of Boundary-Similkameen to Linda Larson of the B.C. Liberals.”
Larson, a former mayor of Oliver and currently a member of Town of Oliver council, announced she would accept the B.C. Liberal nomination the day after Slater was dropped by the party early last week.
Tsakumis threatened to release the information Monday if he didn’t hear from Basso and Slater by 3 p.m. Thursday.
“The details of what I have are demonstrable proof that neither Basso nor Slater have the principled judgment to be in public life,” wrote Tsakumis, whose blog postings are often critical of the NDP.
Tsakumis has previously been a columnist with Sun Media, and as a young man worked as an aide to former Premier Bill Vander Zalm.
Tsakumis could not be reached for comment, but in a blog posting Monday he congratulated the NDP “for getting rid of her” and concluded: “End of story, for me.”
Jan O’Brien, NDP provincial secretary, declined to comment on whether there was a connection between Tsakumis’s blog postings and Basso’s resignation.
“The extent of my comment about Marji’s resignation is simply that we received her resignation for personal reasons,” O’Brien said.
“That starts the process to find a new candidate and we will be working closely with the constituency association in Boundary-Similkameen to get that process underway as quickly as possible,” O’Brien said.
This, she added, involves setting a date for a nomination meeting and seeking a new candidate. The process will likely take more than a month, O’Brien said.
Basso won the NDP nomination in the summer of 2011, defeating health care worker Rhonda Bruce. Since then, the teacher and two-term Oliver councillor has campaigned actively, attending numerous events in the riding.
Slater’s statement said the past few weeks have been among the most difficult of his life and he would not put his family through any more turmoil.
“The past couple of weeks have been an extremely emotional rollercoaster ride for me,” he said. “This brutal experience has shown me how tough smear and fear-based politics can be on people and their families. It is too high a price to pay, at least for me.
“We have reached a profoundly disturbing point in our politics in British Columbia. Instead of a campaign about positive ideas, good policy and what is best for British Columbians, we are instead witnessing a campaign based on fear and smear. B.C. deserves better.
“I cannot put my family or myself through the continual barrage of innuendos and smear which have been launched against me and which will continue until I withdraw as a candidate in the upcoming provincial election. So I say, ‘Enough’.”
Slater said he has worked hard for his constituents of the Boundary-Similkameen riding over the past 40 months since being elected and “I will continue to do so for the rest of my term as MLA and as a private citizen afterwards.
“I am profoundly grateful for the trust the good people of this riding placed in me when they elected me as their MLA four years ago. I am also deeply grateful to those who have supported me during these very difficult past two weeks. Finally, I apologize to those I am letting down by dropping out of the race. I hope you can understand why I cannot continue with my campaign. It is just too much.”
After resigning from the B.C. Liberals after party leader Sharon White said the party would not endorse Slater’s nomination citing “personal issues”, Slater was asked by media across the province about issues relating to alcohol abuse, which he denied.
Slater admitted he did mix a glass of wine with prescription medication, which was a poor choice, and was seen wobbly and incoherent by reporters in the legislature in Victoria while on the job last year.
However, he denied having any serious issues with alcohol and repeated in numerous interviews that he has worked hard for his constituents not only as MLA, but in his six years as mayor of Osoyoos and 12 years before that as an Osoyoos town councillor.
Slater owns a greenhouse and nursery business in Osoyoos.
Basso is expected to return to her teaching job in Oliver with School District 53.
The NDP office said they hope to name a new candidate to replace Basso as quickly as possible.

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