A veteran city councillor and longtime NDP member is challenging his party's decision to strip him of an endorsement in a ward race he still wants to contest this fall.
Daniel McIntyre Coun. Harvey Smith, who's sat on council for 18 years and also served as an NDP MLA, will appear before party officials tonight to protest an NDP committee's decision to endorse Keith Bellamy, a constituency assistant for Winnipeg Centre MP Pat Martin, in the inner-city ward instead.
Smith has sought the party's nod in running for re-election this fall in Daniel McIntyre, a ward he's represented since 1998. But a party committee opted to endorse Bellamy after interviewing both candidates.
Smith is challenging the legitimacy of the process tonight at a special provincial executive meeting of the Manitoba NDP. Last weekend at the party's annual convention, members of the Wolseley constituency -- including at least one Smith supporter -- tried and failed to strike down sections of the party constitution that set out procedures for endorsing municipal and school board candidates.
The party approved the rules for endorsing municipal candidates a year ago. They put considerable power into so-called community endorsement committees (CECs), comprised of two elected representatives from each provincial riding.
The CEC committee that interviewed Smith and Bellamy was comprised of representatives of three of four provincial constituencies that overlap the Daniel McIntyre ward -- St. James, Minto and Logan (currently Wellington). Members of the fourth riding, Wolseley, chose not to elect CEC reps. So Bellamy was endorsed by a committee of six.
It's unclear on what basis Smith is basing his appeal, or whether it will have any implications for future endorsements.
Smith said Tuesday he was reluctant to comment before the hearing takes place.
"I want the membership to decide (endorsements). I don't want a select committee deciding," he said.
Smith also rejected Mayor Sam Katz's contention the endorsements are part of a co-ordinated NDP strategy to assume control of city council. "The NDP is not trying to take control of city hall. These are just endorsement of candidates," he said.
So far, Bellamy and Fort Rouge Coun. Jenny Gerbasi are the only civic candidates to be endorsed through the process for this fall's election, provincial party president Lorraine Sigurdson said Tuesday. However, community endorsement committees are expected to endorse candidates in the Elmwood, Mynarski and Old Kildonan wards over the next few weeks. In Elmwood, Coun. Lillian Thomas' assistant Darryl Livingstone is up against former CTV reporter Shaneen Robinson.
Sigurdson said the process is still relatively new and there are bound to be "some hiccups."
"I'm waiting to hear exactly how it worked (in Daniel McIntyre). I don't want to prejudge what happened here," she said. "If the process was followed appropriately then that's it. Otherwise, the executive will have to determine something else should be done."
On Tuesday, Bellamy said he will "be happy to live with" the party executive's decision, whatever that is. Aside from working for Martin, Bellamy is best known for serving as River Heights Coun. John Orlikow's campaign manager during last year's byelection.
At this weekend's NDP convention, several Wolseley party members said the process is undemocratic. But those who argued to retain it said it was too late to rethink the process only five months before a civic election. And they noted there are opportunities under the new rules to petition members to hold a formal nominating meeting.