NPA city councillor seeks provincial seat

Elizabeth Ball will battle Gabe Garfinkel to become Liberals' candidate in Vancouver-Fairview

An NPA city councillor and a former advisor to Premier Christy Clark are competing to become the Liberals' candidate for the riding of Vancouver-Fairview in the May 9 provincial election.

Elizabeth Ball, who is one of three NPA councillors, is taking on Gabe Garfinkel, a communications consultant, in what is expected to be a hotly contested nomination race that will end with a winner chosen Feb. 19.

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The winner will then campaign to knock off the NDP's George Heyman, who has held the seat since he beat Liberal incumbent Margaret MacDiarmid in the 2013 election.

Garfinkel, a third-generation resident of the riding, announced in November that he was seeking the nomination. And with less than three weeks before the nomination meeting, it looked as if he would be acclaimed as the party's candidate.

Ball's announcement Monday makes it a race but the longtime councillor has little time to sign up party members.

"I think I've got lots of people on my side, and people have been very generous coming forward and offering to help and volunteer," said Ball, a resident of the riding who was first elected to city council in 2005 and re-elected in 2011 and 2014. "We've got a great team in place and I'm feeling very good about things."

Her entry into the race raises questions about her allegiance to the NPA, which has gone from a once powerful ruling party at city hall to one that has barely maintained Opposition status. Mayor Gregor Robertson and his Vision Vancouver team won power in 2008 and have maintained majorities in races in 2011 and 2014.

Ball defended her decision to seek a provincial seat, saying it was not connected in any way to the NPA's performance. Her NPA colleagues on the 11-member council are George Affleck and Melissa De Genova.

"I do enjoy being on council but there are those moments in time where you see something really good happening and you think, 'Yes, I could add to that,'" she said in praising the Clark government's record on arts and culture and seniors' issues. "This is just to build on what I've been able to do at council."

If Ball wins the nomination, and subsequently beats Heyman in the May election, she is allowed to maintain her council seat. If she chose not to carry on as a councillor, her resignation would trigger a byelection.

When Garfinkel launched his campaign, he wrote on his Facebook page: "For those of you who know me, you know how much I care about the area I grew up in and how hard I plan on fighting for its residents. For those of you who don't, I can't wait to get to know you and for you to get to know me and what I stand for."

Ball's decision to seek a provincial nomination while serving as a councillor has some precedent, with Vision Coun. Geoff Meggs unsuccessfully seeking the NDP nomination in 2012 in the same Vancouver-Fairview riding. Heyman went on to win the seat in the 2013 election while Meggs remained on council and was re-elected in 2014.

Back in 2005, then-COPE councillor Tim Stevenson became the NDP candidate in Vancouver-Burrard but was unable to unseat the Liberals' Lorne Mayencourt. Stevenson remains on city council.

The history of Vancouver-Fairview also includes Robertson, who represented the riding as an NDP MLA for several years before he decided to run for mayor.

Vancouver city council has been a training ground for future provincial politicians, with former mayors Gordon Campbell and Mike Harcourt becoming premiers. The NDP's Jenny Kwan and Libby Davies also served on council.

mhowell@vancourier.com

@Howellings

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