Three weeks after the B.C. New Democratic Party stopped taking applications from potential candidates, it has become a two-person race for the chance to represent the party in the anticipated Vancouver-Mount Pleasant byelection.
"It's a big job, but I have lots of support, knowledge and skills, and people who can help me along the way," said Diana Day, who is kicking off her campaign with an event on May 22 at Thornton Park.
Day joins Melanie Mark in the race to represent the NDP in Vancouver-Mount Pleasant. The constituency is an NDP stronghold that Jenny Kwan has represented since 1996. Kwan is leaving provincial politics to run federally for the NDP in the Vancouver East riding.
The NDP's application period closed May 1 amid concerns that a $2,000 entry fee and internal politicking in favour of a preferred candidate were keeping some possible contestants out of the race. The nomination vote date is set for Sunday, June 14.
Day's campaign manager Sarah Blyth said it took the party nearly three weeks to approve Day's application, but that it's healthy for democracy that in the end there will be a competition.
Blyth said it's too bad the party didn't allow contestants more time to sign up new members, but Day will run a grassroots campaign aimed at attracting existing members. "We know we're the underdogs," she said.
Mark is the daughter of a Nisga'a and Gitxsan mother and a Cree and Ojibwa father, and worked for eight years in the office of the B.C. Representative for Children and Youth. She said she grew up in poverty and is passionate about helping people navigate the social support systems that are intended to help them.
'They're taking our culture': Day
Day, a member of the Oneida Nation, said she has a long history of advocating for vulnerable people in Vancouver and the Downtown Eastside. "A lot of our Aboriginal youth are being pushed out of school," she said. "I believe that's because our schools aren't actually safe for Aboriginal students."
While some elementary schools are safe, there's much work to be done at the high school level, said Day, who is the chair of the Parent Advisory Council at Vancouver Technical Secondary School.
The high number of Aboriginal children in government foster care is part of an ongoing "genocide" aimed at destroying First Nations' language and culture, she said. "They're taking our culture. Those things are being ripped from our community."
She said sometimes people talk about Aboriginals "losing" their culture, but stresses, "It wasn't lost. It was stolen. It was legislated away."
Too many kids come to school hungry already, and policies like building Site C, which will flood essential agricultural land, will make the problem worse, she said.
"I hope to bring a really strong voice to the legislature to be able to talk about some of these issues," Day said.
The byelection has not yet been called, but will become necessary once Kwan officially resigns, which she doesn't legally have to do until the federal election is called.
Read more: BC Politics