A Nelson city councillor who’s claiming the BC NDP is suppressing his vote in the party’s leadership election won an award four years ago as a “rising star” in the Green Party.
And two years ago city Coun. Rik Logtenberg made a video endorsement of Sonia Furstenau, saying she deserved to be not just leader of the BC Greens but the next premier of British Columbia.
Logtenberg didn’t recount his history with the Greens in a Twitter thread this week that criticized the NDP’s request for evidence that he was no longer a member of the provincial or federal Green Party.
“Over the last few years, I’ve tried to stay far away from the toxic world of party politics,” Logtenberg tweeted. “I’m focused on real action on climate change, and political parties (and consultants) get in the way.”
Logtenberg said he was willing to give party politics another try after being inspired to join the BC NDP thanks to Anjali Appadurai’s campaign to lead the party.
Appadurai is a climate activist who is running on a “vision to enact balanced policy rooted in grassroots democratic dialogue, in order to boldly address the intersecting crises affecting all of us, while leaving no one behind.”
She is critical of various government policies and her campaign is seen as a challenge to the NDP establishment and a barrier to David Eby, who has overwhelming support among the party’s MLAs, being acclaimed as leader.
There are claims that Appadurai’s team had much greater success than Eby’s did signing up new NDP members, in part thanks to support from the environmental group Dogwood. People had to be members of the party by Sept. 4 in order to vote in the leadership election.
The signups have come under scrutiny from both the party and Elections BC.
One of the allegations is that Dogwood representatives pressed Green members to switch parties to vote in the NDP’s leadership election. While switching parties, or encouraging people to, is entirely legal, like other parties the NDP requires that its members not be members of other political parties at the same time.
In his Twitter thread Logtenberg expressed shock that he’d been asked to provide proof he was no longer a member of the Greens and that he was given just three days to get statements from the provincial and federal parties saying so.
“Apparently, my declaration at signup is not good enough,” he wrote. “So my relationship with this party has begun with them telling me that I’m a liar. Nice.”
It would be difficult to get the proof so quickly, he added.
“How do you say voter suppression without saying voter suppression?”
He shared a screenshot of the email he’d received from the NDP. “It has been brought to our attention that you were a member of the BC Green Party,” it said. “Therefore we are requesting confirmation that you are no longer a member of that party, as you cannot hold membership in another party while being a member of the BC NDP.”
The proof could either be a dated written request for a cancellation sent to the Greens or written confirmation from the Greens showing the date his membership ended. He would need similar proof from the federal party if he had also been a member of it, the email said.
There are two main reasons the NDP would contact someone to vet their membership. Some new members are subject to random spot checks that parties often do to make sure members are real individuals. In British Columbia there have been examples of people — or even a cat — being signed up without their knowledge.
Other checks are done at the request of campaign teams.
After Eby was approved as a candidate his team was entitled to receive the party’s membership list. It was then able to go through that list and challenge any memberships that it believed were suspect and thought the party should investigate.
In Logtenberg’s case, it is clear that his involvement in the Greens was extensive and relatively recent. He was a president of the provincial Green Party Nelson Creston Riding Association, a top official for his federal riding association, a Green donor, endorsed Furstenau for premier and was a “rising star” in the party.
“The Rising Star this year was an amazing volunteer from right here in Nelson,” the Nelson Star reported in 2018. “Rik Logtenberg captured the award for his work in helping to develop a new data management system to be used by both the provincial and federal Green parties.”
The NDP has not barred him from voting in the leadership race, but is seeking confirmation that he is no longer a Green before letting his membership stand.
Reached by phone Thursday afternoon, Logtenberg said that while it’s reasonable for the NDP to validate its membership list, he was frustrated by the quick deadline and the party’s lack of flexibility. “It seemed like you can’t be doing this in good faith if you don’t recognize what you’re doing and adjust.”
As it turned out, however, both the provincial and federal Green parties were prompt in sending emails confirming he was no longer a member. He forwarded them to the NDP, but hadn’t heard back yet. “Fingers crossed it works,” he said, adding that not everyone in his situation will have the time to follow through.
Logtenberg sees no contradiction between his support for the Greens and his support for Appadurai’s NDP leadership bid.
He still believes Green Leader Furstenau would make the best premier, ideally following a merging of the two parties, he said. “I would love it,” he said. “Of all of them I know she would be the most outstanding premier.”
That scenario may be unrealistic at this point, he said, but in the meantime Appadurai’s campaign is an opportunity for people like him to have a say and for the NDP to broaden its appeal and add a spirited and empowered coalition to its circle.
Reaction to Logtenberg on Twitter was divided, with some NDP supporters arguing the party is right to make sure the leadership race isn’t co-opted by Greens.
One, Charlie Baranski, wrote, “It seems totally okay and even best practice for a party to go through their membership rolls before a leadership election and ensure everyone who may have an issue with their membership has time to correct it before voting begins.”
In response Logtenberg said the issue was the lack of time to provide the proof.
He suggested there were “thousands” of new members in the same situation, an allegation he repeated in a CityNews 1130 story.
On the phone he clarified that Appadurai has signed up thousands of new NDP members who will be alienated if they are prevented from getting the votes they deserve.
A BC NDP spokesperson said the party’s governing bodies approved the rules for the leadership election and nomination of candidates in July.
“The BC NDP takes the integrity of our election very seriously and unfortunately, we've received a number of complaints pertaining to third parties soliciting fraudulent memberships in our party,” they said. “At the same time, we received a thousand challenges to the membership list prior to the Oct. 4 deadline.”
The spokesperson did not specify how many requests the party sent like the one that went to Logtenberg.
There has not, however, so far been a deluge of requests to the BC Green Party for evidence of cancelled memberships. According to a spokesperson, as of midday Thursday just 20 people had asked for statements that they are no longer members of the party.
NDP leadership campaigns had until the end of the day Tuesday to make challenges to memberships.
Appadurai’s campaign couldn’t. Her application to be approved as a leadership candidate was submitted the week before the deadline, which was also Tuesday.
As of publication, the application was still in the NDP’s vetting process. When it’s complete the NDP’s chief electoral officer Elizabeth Cull will make a recommendation to the party’s executive council in time for its Oct. 19 meeting, where it will decide whether or not to approve Appadurai’s candidacy.
Read more: BC Politics