Longtime NDP organizer calls nomination process 'unethical' and 'sneaky'

Point Douglas activist and veteran New Democratic Party organizer Sel Burrows says the process to nominate a candidate in the constituency is unethical, and he's looking for ways to upend it before a meeting on Jan. 31.

Point Douglas activist Sel Burrows says nomination process to replace Kevin Chief ‘not democratic’

Point Douglas activist Sel Burrows says he'll probably vote for Bernadette Smith but calls the process to nominate her in the constituency 'secretive and unethical.' (CBC News )

Sel Burrows is hopping mad — at his own political party.

The veteran New Democratic Party organizer and Point Douglas activist says the process to nominate a candidate in the constituency is unethical, and he's looking for ways to upend it before a meeting on Jan. 31.

Bernadette Smith wants to replace former Point Douglas MLA Kevin Chief, who resigned in late December to spend more time with his family.

Smith was the only person who completed paperwork for the NDP nomination before the deadline to do so. Burrows says local party members, including two people who were considering running for the spot, only found out late last week nominations were closed.

NDP member Sel Burrows says the party's executive is 'shooting itself in the foot' with the nomination process in Point Douglas. (CBC News )
Burrows says Smith would probably be an excellent MLA for Point Douglas, but has problems with the process.

"Whoever ends up being the candidate, I will certainly work for them, work on the campaign and do everything I can to get them elected. But I believe that the second word in the party's name is 'democratic,' and this is not democratic. This is sneaky and should not be accepted," Burrows told CBC News.

Smith declined to comment on the allegations.

Burrows worked for years for the Manitoba government and has been one of the principal members of the Point Douglas Residents Committee. 

"Normally when you have a nomination meeting, that's when you build the party, that's when you get people involved — an honest debate, and honest discussion about why one person should be the candidate rather than another. And you build energy. I think they are shooting themselves in the foot," Burrows said.

Bernadette Smith was only candidate to submit her name for the NDP's Point Douglas nomination. (CBC News )
Burrows says he received an email Friday evening notifying members of the Jan. 31 meeting, and that nominations were closed and Smith was the lone candidate. He says the note came as an "absolute surprise."

Burrows is so angry he hopes to upend the process.

"If I can find a good NDP lawyer to do a little pro bono work, I think we have grounds to stop the meeting and have an open nomination period for other people who want to put their names forward," Burrows said.

NDP provincial secretary Keith Bellamy responded to CBC with a statement via email.

It said the party executive approved the date for the Jan. 31 nomination meeting in accordance with the NDP's constitution. The date was chosen late last week following a request by the president of the Point Douglas NDP Constituency Association. 

Timing was also a factor, the statement says.

"The date was selected with an acute awareness of the potential for the by-election to be called at any time without advance notice by the Brian Pallister government," the statement reads.

About the Author

Sean Kavanagh

Civic affairs - city hall reporter

Born and raised in Winnipeg, Sean has had a chance to live in some of Canada's other beautiful places (Whistler, B.C., and Lake of the Woods, Ont.) as well as in Europe and the United States. In more than 15 years of reporting, Sean has covered some of the seminal events in Manitoba, from floods to elections, including as the CBC's provincial affairs reporter.