Over the weekend the NDP issued a statement about the behaviour of one of their B.C. candidates at a youth environment conference 12 years ago, but the party's release may have lacked some key details.
The September 21 statement quoted Saanich-Gulf Islands candidate Julian West saying, “On a number of occasions throughout the weekend I removed my clothing, in the presence of minors. Beyond that nothing inappropriate occurred.”
Other accounts differ. Told of West's statement, Steve Kisby said, “I would say that's a matter of judgment.”
Kisby was a provincial Green Party official at the time and led an investigation into the complaints. He remains involved in the Green Party. “There were a lot of conflicting opinions of what happened. It really was hard to determine what the facts were,” he said. “Some of the allegations did go beyond skinny dipping, but they were allegations.”
He added, “There was skinny dipping and there was body painting, and a number of people were involved in both.” He said West was involved in both activities.
In June, 1996, the Province newspaper reported that West skinny dipped, but also that he “got too excited during naked body painting” at a Conference for Earth at Mesachie Lake near Duncan. The story quoted Cowichan Secondary School principal Tom Miller saying several of the dozen young witnesses requested counselling and there were “fits of crying.” A parent said one child “nearly vomited.”
West said in a phone interview he believes his statement was accurate. Asked if he got an erection during the incident, West said, “no.”
Reminded of the Province story, he said, “I don't want to start comparing media outlets to say which one had the more accurate story.”
He took no steps to correct the Province's 1996 account, he said. “I did not engage in any sort of back and forth with the media about details in stories at that time . . . Media get things wrong all the time. You just have to accept that people say what they say.”
West is one of three green candidates trying to unseat oil-friendly natural resources minister Gary Lunn in Saanich-Gulf Islands. Environmental activist and writer Briony Penn is running for the Liberals and Andrew Lewis is the Green Party candidate. Lewis last year refused a request from environmentalists asking him to drop out of the race to reduce vote splitting.
West blamed his political opponents for resurrecting the 12-year-old story.
Kisby said, “Clearly bringing this up at this time, when the person has been a candidate for a long time, seems a little underhanded.”
Last week the NDP withdrew two B.C. candidates. Dana Larsen, a candidate in West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country stepped out after it was revealed there are videos on the internet of him driving while stoned and his seed company was selling coca plants. Kirk Tousaw, a civil libertarian lawyer, dropped out in Vancouver-Quadra citing his past work on drug policy reform.
Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee's Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. You can reach him here.