Green Shift drives Liberal prospect to NDP 

Dion offered Sea to Sky riding without competition, UBC prof alleges

click to enlarge Michael Byers Photo by William Ting
  • Michael Byers Photo by William Ting

A UBC professor who was slated to run as a star Liberal candidate in the Sea to Sky corridor has jumped ship to run for the NDP in Vancouver.

Michael Byers, an oft-quoted expert on Arctic sovereignty and international law, was initially courted by the federal Liberals to run in the riding of West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country, which includes Whistler and Squamish, but has fallen out with the party over its environmental policies. He is now seeking the NDP nomination in Vancouver Centre.

“Mr. Dion’s climate change plan is not the right plan for this point in time,” Byers said. “In fact it’s very much the wrong time, and then so I’ve chosen to put my career with a party that actually has got a strong climate change plan.”

Since deciding to run for the NDP, Byers has become the target of attacks by Bruce Young, the Liberals’ B.C. campaign co-chair, who said the academic wanted the riding handed to him “on a silver platter” without any competition. However Byers tells it differently.

He told Pique in an interview that the Liberals had been courting him as early as February, when he hosted a conference in Ottawa on the Northwest Passage. Richard Maksymetz, a Liberal organizer who deals with the Prairies and the Northern Territories, approached him at the conference and raised the issue of the riding.

Blair Wilson, the riding’s MP who was elected as a Liberal but now sits as an independent, was the focus of controversy after a story in the Province newspaper reported a mountain of allegations against him, among them undeclared campaign expenses and debts to in-laws.

Byers said he later had a meeting with Young and Mark Marissen, the national campaign co-chair for the Liberals in the next election. Byers said there was a “great deal of enthusiasm” about the prospect of him being a candidate.

The way Young tells it, Byers was persistent in expressing his interest to run with the Liberals.

“The Liberal Party is a coalition of economically prudent, socially progressive folk, that go through a pretty wide spectrum,” he said. “Mr. Byers fell within that broad range and was indicating an interest in being a Liberal candidate aggressively.”

Byers met with Stéphane Dion in Ottawa on May 14. There, he said, the two spoke about a prospective candidacy in West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country.

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