UVic Environmental Law Centre co-chair wins NDP nomination

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In a landslide vote, environmental lawyer Murray Rankin won the nomination to be the NDP candidate in the upcoming Victoria byelection. The seat has been vacant since Denise Savoie, who held office as Victoria MP since 2006, announced her resignation on Aug. 23 for health reasons.

Almost 600 NDP supporters attended the nomination on Oct. 14 at UVic’s Michèle Pujol room, which exceeded expectations so much that an overflow room was used and extra ballots were printed to accommodate all attendees. Rankin received 352 votes on the first ballot—almost two-thirds of the vote. The remaining votes were distributed among runners-up: Elizabeth Cull, former deputy premier of B.C., received 96 votes, while former Victoria school board trustee Charley Beresford and Victoria City Councillor Ben Isitt received 51 and 36 votes, respectively.

“I wasn’t surprised that he won, but by the margin he did, definitely. It was very impressive, and he did do a very good campaign,” says Clinton Nellist, co-chair of the UVic NDP club.

Rankin joins Green Party candidate Donald Galloway, who is a UVic professor of law, Liberal candidate and UVic adjunct professor Paul Summerville and the Conservatives’ Dale Gann, president of UVic’s Vancouver Island Technology Park, in the race for Victoria MP. Prime Minister Harper has called the byelection to be held on Nov. 26.

This nomination was Rankin’s first time seeking office, though he has been involved with the NDP since he was 17, working on other party members’ campaigns and assisting in the Saanich constituency. Why did he put his name forward now?

“I think the only two words that I could come up with would be ‘Stephen Harper’…  I really, really am concerned about the direction he is taking Canada in, and I wasn’t about to stand on the sidelines,” says Rankin. “I was just so inspired by the need to continue [Savoie’s] record, because she’s really well respected and was a terrific MP. Secondly, I really felt that I had to stop Harper whatever possible way I could.”

Rankin is an expert in environmental law. He runs a private law practice and co-chairs the student-run UVic Environmental Law Centre. Rankin was a professor of law at UVic for 12 years and continues to teach at the university occasionally. He has been involved in several precedent-setting cases at both provincial and national Supreme Courts. Rankin also acts as advisor to the B.C. NDP caucus in exploring provincial legal options against the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline project in the case the pipeline is approved.

“Most people don’t realize that the province has not been involved in setting the terms of reference or participating as appointed members on the review panel. It’s all been done by Harper’s people. I thought that this is really unfair to the majority of British Columbians who, poll after poll, indicate they’re opposed to this thing,” says Rankin. “It’s only one part of the picture why I have to go to Ottawa and really make a difference, because that is where it will ultimately be decided.”

Enbridge is one of the most significant issues for B.C. politicians, says Nellist. “I think that having another New Democrat voice at the table, talking about B.C. issues and fighting for environmental protection, is going to be really key in this discussion moving forward.”

Rankin also hopes to work on resolving issues such as homelessness, Indigenous rights and dissatisfaction with the government, particularly in young people.

“We’ve got to give [young people] confidence that the system is worth repairing. I’m not saying it doesn’t need significant work. It does. But I want people to work together,” says Rankin.
“I want to restore confidence in Canadians in the parliamentary system.”

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