Victoria NDP debate builds consensus, not controversy

Party members to cast ballots this Sunday to determine candidate for Victoria federal byelection

A sea of orange flooded the sanctuary of First Metropolitan Church on Quadra Street Tuesday night, with an estimated 500 people packing the pews to hear four nominees who hope to fill the shoes of Denise Savoie.

The federal NDP’s sole nominee debate took place between four candidate hopefuls – Murray Rankin, Elizabeth Cull, Ben Isitt and Charley Beresford – in the run-up to its nomination vote Sunday (Oct. 14) to select a candidate for the upcoming Victoria byelection.

Moderated by Murray Langdon, the debate lasted just over an hour and consisted of audience questions and opening and closing statements by each nominee.

The nominees largely agreed on crowd-pleasing issues like the creation of affordable housing, the need to create stronger partnerships with First Nations, food security, electoral reform and environmental protection.

In one of the few standout moments of the debate, Rankin ran circles around the other nominees when they were asked to tout their official second language skills.

Rankin is an environmental lawyer and currently leading the B.C. NDP’s attempt to stop the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline. He has the support of the three local area NDP MLAs.

Cull served as both finance and health minister in the Mike Harcourt provincial government and as Oak Bay-Gordon Head MLA from 1989 to 1996. She is supported by Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca MP Randall Garrison.

Beresford previously served as a Victoria school board trustee and is currently executive director of the Columbia Institute, a policy group focused on sustainable communities and leadership.

Isitt, an outspoken Victoria city councillor, was last to enter the race. He has been involved in numerous grassroots campaigns and has worked for the Cool Aid Society and on several NDP campaigns.

For a minute-by-minute recap of Tuesday’s meeting, search #yyjNDP on Twitter.

The nomination vote, open to the roughly 1,200 Victoria party members, takes place in the Michelle Pujol Room at the University of Victoria starting at 1 p.m. Sunday.

A byelection was called after Denise Savoie stepped down for health reasons in August.

dpalmer@vicnews.com