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Lali threatened to sue if Dix memberships aren't rejected

British Columbia NDP leadership candidate Harry Lali says he'll take his own party to court over memberships if it fails to apply its own rules.

"I think there's a basic principal that when you put out a set of rules to follow, you expect every candidate's teams to follow those rules," he said. "As far as I know five campaigns followed those rules down to a T, and one didn't."

Lali singled out Vancouver-Kingsway MLA Adrian Dix's campaign for bringing in membership forms that should be rejected.

The party's rules say that money for a membership is supposed to be attached to each individual form, he said. "In this case you had memberships coming in separately and other people were bringing in bags of money and envelopes full of money."

The people, who Lali said were visibly South Asians and Filipinos, brought the money and forms into the party's Burnaby office a half an hour before the deadline for signing up members who would be eligible to vote for a new leader on April 17. "I was there and I witnessed it along with about a dozen people from other campaigns," he said.

Lali said that in his letter he told the party he will take whatever public or legal action is necessary to make sure the rules are fairly applied. "Every candidate's got to be held to the same test and to the same set of rules," he said. "You can't bend or change the rules for another candidate, otherwise why have rules in the first place?"

Mike Farnworth's campaign has also reportedly complained to the party.

Dix said he believed people working on his campaign followed the rules. "My understanding is they did, same as everyone else," he told reporters outside an NDP caucus meeting at the legislature.

"The rules are going to be applied fairly, they're going to be applied to everyone," he said, noting that many people pay cash for memberships and that the rush on memberships was a sign people are excieted about the leadership race.

The provincial office will assess which memberships are legitimate, said Dix. He said he had "no idea" how many members his team had signed up and stressed that his own job is to campaign about issues and meet members.

"I think it's something that's happened in many different political parties," said New Westminster MLA Dawn Black, who caucus members chose as interim NDP leader this morning. "I think the provincial party will deal with that in accordance with the rules of a nomination."

Update: At 5 p.m. on Jan. 19, the NDP put out a statement saying the disputed applications would be processed. “The BC NDP has always worked to involve interested British Columbian in our party,” the release quoted Jan O’Brien, BC NDP Provincial Secretary, saying. “We will not disenfranchise people who are interested in being a part of our party.”

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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