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
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.
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
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
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.