British Columbia

Questions raised over NDP's equity policy after Gerry Taft's win

Questions are being raised about the effectiveness of the NDP's equity policy following the recent nomination of East Kootenay candidate Gerry Taft.

Taft's opponent was puzzled when Taft claimed status under equity rule; yesterday he disclosed his bisexuality

Spring Hawes (left) questioned why her opponent Gerry Taft (right) won the NDP provincial nomination in the Columbia River-Revelsoke riding, given the party's policy of increasing representation of equity-seeking groups. Taft later revealed he is bisexual. (Facebook/Twitter)

Questions are being raised about the effectiveness of the NDP's equity policy following the recent nomination of East Kootenay candidate Gerry Taft.

The equity rule states if a man retires from an NDP-held seat in the province, that man's replacement must be a woman or an "equity-seeking" man; for example, a man who is a visible minority, a person with a disability or someone from the LGBTQ community.

Taft, the current mayor of Invermere, won his nomination last Saturday in the riding of Columbia River-Revelstoke when MLA Norm McDonald retired.

Taft, a white man with a female partner and young son, did not appear to meet the party's equity rule although he claimed minority status with party approval.

Yesterday, with some reluctance, Taft disclosed he is bisexual.

Does the policy meet its objective?

"He certainly does qualify," said Grace Lore, an instructor in UBC's political science department, who specializes in gender and politics.

But Lore said if the party's policy is to provide opportunities for individuals who face structural and systemic barriers, it should consider whether Gerry Taft has faced the same structural barriers as other candidates.

The objective of the policy, she said, is to give opportunities to a greater number of candidates.

"It's also about changing the face of politics, bringing in diverse voices and having different people see themselves reflected in our politics."

Policy aims to strike a balance

Still, Lore said policies like this one do help increase the number of women and under-represented groups in politics.

"They don't balance it in terms of getting to 50-50 but they sure get close," she said.

"In ridings where the incumbent is retiring, this means that the party has demonstrated support ... so it's an effective strategy to increase representation among MLAs as well."

Lore said people should also be careful in assuming the policy means the most qualified person won't be able to access the nomination.

"There are a ton of qualified women and [candidates from] other groups that can seek that nomination."

With files from Daybreak South


To listen to the interview, click on the link labelled Should the NDP reconsider its equity policy after Gerry Taft's win?

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