The B.C. New Democrats need to look beyond "ridiculous" gender rules and focus on finding the best possible person to lead the party to an election win, a local party stalwart said Sunday.
"I think it's time we get past that," said Ruth Fane, a veteran party member and president of the Kamloops-South Thompson riding. "It's quite ridiculous. A lot of our gender rules are."
The Daily News asked Fane to respond to decade-old provisions in the NDP constitution requiring both genders must be represented in the jobs of party leader, president and treasurer.
The current president is Moe Sihota and the treasurer is Bob Smits. Carole James steps down as leader later this month. She announced her resignation Dec. 6 after 13 of her 34 MLA caucus rallied against her.
Speculation is the next leader of the party will have to be a woman unless Sihota or Smits step down.
Fane said she wouldn't be surprised if some in the party demand gender equality at the top.
"With the NDP, you never know. There are certain elements within the party that will get up and say (Sihota and Smits) got to resign first or these guys can't even put their name forward," she said.
Fane believes the party needs to stop worrying about equality and concentrate on the leadership race. She said the goal should be electing the man or woman who can best lead the party.
If that leader ends up being a man and party members are upset it wasn't a woman then "they shouldn't have drummed out the perfectly good female leader we had," she said.
Tom Friedman, the party's candidate in Kamloops-South Thompson in the last election, doesn't believe gender equality will be an issue. He suspects the party will elect the best candidate and sort out the president and treasurer jobs after.
"I think we'll be electing the best person no matter the gender," said Friedman, adding the situation is unique.
He said the NDP crafted gender rules as a way to encourage more women to participate in politics, but was unaware it applied to the leader, president and treasurer.
NDP provincial government representative David Schreck publicized the gender clause on his Twitter account on Friday.
The rules may also apply to the interim leader, who will be selected by the NDP caucus later this month, said Sihota.
"We're seeking some advice on that," Sihota said Saturday. He wouldn't speculate on whether he or Smits would resign if caucus selected a male as interim leader.
NDP officials will discus the situation next week, he said. The interim, leader will head the party until a leadership vote April 17.
All the NDP MLAs who have said they are considering running for the leadership are men. Federal NDP MP Peter Julian is expected to announce his leadership intentions next week. Marijuana activist Dana Larsen announced his bid for leader last week.
The NDP's gender provisions also include a requirement that at least 50 per cent of the vice-presidents, members at large, regional members and youth representatives be women.
The party has made a point of enshrining gender equality in its rules, including designating more than one-third of the ridings women in the 2009 provincial election. Twelve of the 34 NDP MLAs are women.
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