Avis wins NDP nomination
Qualicum Beach councillor Barry Avis will carry the NDP banner into the next provincial election in the Parksville-Qualicum constituency after winning a three-way nomination contest on the first ballot Sunday.
Avis, currently serving his third term on council, was up against former candidate Leanne Salter and Nanaimo school trustee Andrea Bonkowski.
The first-ballot victory belied what had seemed a hard-fought race during the back and forth and speeches prior to the vote.
The roughly 150 people who crowded into the Arbutus Room at the Parksville Community and Conference Centre heard Bonkowski explain why she was running for office.
“If I believe in something I get involved,” she said. “I can’t sit on the sidelines. When things are unjust I feel compelled to speak up.”
Avis stressed his career in government, with three elected terms to council, as well as six years on the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities board, rising to vice-president. He also, he noted, sits on the Vancouver Island Regional Library board.
“I’ve worked on many issues with (NDP MLA) Scott Fraser, such as logging on the Englishman River, the Raven Coal project and Cathedral Grove,” he said. “However, I’ve been limited in my scope of what I can do.”
Salter, who ran unsuccessfully against Liberal incumbent Ron Cantelon in the 2009 provincial election, said she has worked on the ground since then to follow her beliefs with positive, ground floor action.
“I’m a provincial council representative, a BCGEU shop steward, and a Nanaimo, Duncan and area Labour Council representative,” she said. “I’ve been on the doorsteps of each community and have maintained valuable connections.”
The fireworks though came between Avis and Salter when Avis was asked why he voted to put off making a decision about BC Hydro’s smart meters at last week’s council meeting.
Asked by a delegation at a previous meeting to call for a moratorium on the installation of the meters, Avis had voted with the rest of council in delaying making a decision on the issue until the meeting following the Sept. 28 Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM) convention.
While expressing concern about the potential problems with the wireless devices being installed, Avis said he felt there was enough time to deal with the issue, because no smart meters were being installed in the area.
Salter pounced on that.
“They are already being installed in Parksville,” Salter said. “We are in the fight right now.”
That put Avis on his back foot and he three times apologized for making the error.
After the second apology, Salter went in for the kill, noting that Qualicum Beach Mayor Teunis Westbroek was in the audience, she challenged Avis.
“You could call an emergency meeting to vote against it,” she said.
With no answer to that challenge except another apology, the momentum clearly seemed to be in Salter’s favour.
However, when the ballots were cast and duly counted, the prize — and the task — went to Avis.
The vote was not without its controversy, with NDP headquarters having to be called because there was one ballot too many in the box. However, the scrutineers all agreed that the one ballot would not have made a difference in the final result, indicating that Avis won by more than two votes.
In his victory speech, Avis thanked both Bonkowski and Salter for running and pledged to put together a strong team to take on Ron Cantelon in the next provincial election.
“It’s going to take all of us working together,” Avis said. “I am going to commit myself to being as full-time as I can over the next however many months it is. It could be May of 2013 or it could be before. I am going to put together a team that represents all of our riding and get people from every walk of life.”