Posted on 16 January 2013 by Keith Lacey
John Slater said he was left no choice but to resign from the B.C. Liberal Party on Monday.
In a stunning turn of events, Slater said he could no longer remain a member of a political party that showed so little support or respect for him.
“As of a few days ago, I honestly thought I was still the Liberal candidate, but now that it has been made abundantly clear that’s not the case, I didn’t really have a choice,” said Slater, who resigned from the party while announcing he would be sitting as an independent MLA in the provincial legislature.
“The bottom line is I can no longer work with the party, so I’m going to sit as an independent and will hopefully be able to represent my constituents throughout the riding over the next couple of months, which is really my biggest concern right now.”
Zach Poturica, president of the local Liberal riding association, and several other high-ranking members, also handed in their resignations to show support for Slater.
When asked if he would consider running as an independent in the upcoming provincial election, which is slated for early May, Slater said he will look at all his options, but hinted that’s not likely to happen.
“This only happened about three hours ago, so I have a lot of thinking to do in the next little while, but I do realize running as an independent would be a really tough road with a lot of hurdles to overcome,” said Slater late Monday afternoon.
“I have to take some time to really think about what I’m going to do and talk with my supporters and directors and decide what my next course of action should be.”
Slater was elected as MLA for Boundary-Similkameen following the provincial election in 2009.
He ran to become an MLA after serving for six years as mayor of Osoyoos. He was on town council in Osoyoos for 12 years before that.
His biggest disappointment in what has become one of the most talked about political stories in the province over the past two weeks is that nobody from the B.C. Liberal Party leadership had mentioned a word to him about any problems or discussed any plans relating to the upcoming election, said Slater.
“If they would have approached me back in September when I filed my nomination papers and quietly told me they didn’t think I was the guy who could win the next election and they wanted to go in another direction, I think that would have been appropriate, instead of dragging me on and dragging me on,” said Slater.
From the time he filed nomination papers until media outlets reported early last week that Liberal Party officials had not scheduled a nomination meeting for this riding and had approached former Oliver mayor Linda Larson about her possible interest in representing the party in the election, Slater reiterated he was never contacted once by party leadership about their intentions.
“I never heard a single thing. Not one thing. Zero,” said Slater.
B.C. Liberal Party president Sharon White confirmed Monday afternoon that Slater had resigned from the party.
“Mr. Slater’s candidacy is not being approved due to personal issues that, in our view, impact his ability to represent the party,” said White, who refused to elaborate. “The party sought a co-operative solution through discussions with John. This is not a decision taken lightly and is fully considered.”
Slater has made significant contributions to his community in both the private sector and in public life, said White.
Slater said he was never confronted by anyone within the Liberal Party about “personal issues” and has no idea what that statement might mean.
“That’s a pretty vague comment and there’s nothing she stated that is concrete in any way so I really don’t know how to comment about that,” he said. “There are times when I speak my mind in caucus, but I don’t think there was a specific issue.”
After being a proud member of the B.C. Liberal Party for almost eight years, Slater said he remains very disappointed at how things have turned out.
“It is unfortunate. It really is,” he said. “I didn’t think anything like this was going to happen at all.”
For the party to suggest he had not made his intentions clear about wanting to maintain his seat and run again in the election is inaccurate, said Slater.
He did take a few weeks to do some serious thinking about his personal and private life following the death of his mother back in early September, but made it very clear in late September that he wanted to run again and was excited about the pending election campaign, he said.
Slater said a Liberal MLA told him in early December that polling results indicated he wouldn’t have any chance to win the election, so he considered withdrawing his candidacy.
However, he decided to talk to as many constituents as possible and discovered no such polling had taken place and decided he was going to pursue the nomination and didn’t hear anything from party leadership until reading media reports about the party not endorsing his nomination early last week.
“I was fed a bunch of misinformation … they obviously wanted me out,” he said. ‘But I knew I could win this riding and I planned to run again.”
Now that he has resigned from the party, Slater said he would not hold any animosity towards Larson if she decides to accept the Liberal nomination for this riding heading into an election campaign.
“She has got to make that decision on her own,” he said. “I don’t think it puts her in a bad spot because I’ve worked with Linda for years and we’ve become good friends and I think she knows I won’t hold any decision she makes against her.”
With the election just under three months away, Slater acknowledged he is going to have to make a decision and announcement about his intentions relating to the election in the very near future.
“I’ve got a lot of thinking to do for sure,” he said.
Ironically, Slater was given the Liberal nomination before the last provincial election after local Liberal candidate Joe Cardoso had previously been given the nod.
Cardoso was eventually replaced by Slater by the Liberals after it was revealed he had written a letter to the editor in an area newspaper criticizing former Liberal leader and premier Gordon Campbell.
Cardoso eventually dropped out of the Liberal Party and ran for the Conservatives in Boundary-Similkameen and ended up finishing with 20 per cent of the popular vote.
Slater managed to win a seat in the provincial legislature by edging NDP candidate Lakhvinder Jhaz by just over 800 votes. Slater said he believes he has been a solid MLA for his constituents across the Boundary-Similkmaeen riding and “got a lot done in Victoria” during his 40-month tenure in the provincial legislature.