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BUCHOLTZ: Majority goal could slip from NDP grasp

Several dozen demonstrators gathered outside a hotel in Surrey on Monday (Feb. 5) to deliver a petition and curriculum to Premier David Eby, calling for the resignation of MLA Selina Robinson. The BC NDP held a retreat at Sheraton Vancouver Guildford Hotel. (Photo: Jane Skrypnek/Black Press Media)

By Frank Bucholtz, columnist

The NDP caucus was in Surrey for a planned fundraiser Sunday night and a caucus retreat Monday. Things didn’t go quite as planned.

The fundraiser was cancelled at the last minute, and Monday’s retreat at Sheraton Vancouver Guildford Hotel was dogged by protesters outside.

Many events across Canada have been dogged by pro-Palestinian demonstrators since the Oct. 7 raid by Hamas that killed around 1,200 people and saw hundreds of others taken as hostages. Israel’s continued war in Gaza against Hamas has killed thousands more.

However, in B.C., Post-Secondary Education Minister Selina Robinson has given some powerful new ammunition to not only pro-Palestinian demonstrators, but many others. Her remarks about Palestine last week, stating that it was “a crappy piece of land with nothing on it” when Israel became an independent country in 1948, have enraged many Muslims and caused some Islamic leaders to state that no NDP MLA or candidate will be welcomed in their mosques unless Robinson resigns.

• RELATED: Robinson to take anti-Islamophobia training after controversial Gaza statement.

As of Monday morning, she had refused to do so and Premier David Eby appeared to be ready to let her ride out the storm.

NEWS UPDATE: On Monday afternoon, the B.C. NDP removed Robinson from her role as post-secondary education minister following ongoing protests and outrage. Premier David Eby says she will remain in caucus.

His reaction is similar to his response to calls for the resignation of former children and family development minister Mitzi Dean. She was allowed to remain in her job for months, after many calls for her resignation over the horrific treatment of two children in care. In January, she was shuffled off to another cabinet job.

Eby, like most party leaders these days, seems reluctant to ever fire anyone in his inner circle. He and other party leaders seem to see it as giving in to others. They seem oblivious as to how their actions look to those on the outside.

Robinson, to her credit, issued a lengthy and heartfelt apology on Monday, before the retreat started. She also promised to take anti-Islamophobia training. Whether that will be enough to quell the anger remains to be seen.

The cancellation of the fundraiser is curious. It was only made public on Sunday – the day of the event. Heather Bibby of the NDP said the event was cancelled because “We heard from the community that it is not the time for a celebratory event. We have some work to do. We look forward to rescheduling the event soon.”

Protesters from the Muslim community, Keep the RCMP in Surrey and an anti-SOGI (sexual orientation and gender identity) group had all promised to be outside the event at the Aria Convention Centre. It was billed as an ”evening gala” and most, if not all, NDP MLAs were expected to attend.

Such events are important in an election year, as corporate and union donations to campaigns are no longer allowed. Fundraisers make up much of the difference, and also are an opportunity for elected and nominated politicians to make important personal connections.

The NDP is expected to do very well in the 10 Surrey ridings in the October election. The party is far ahead of its rivals in the polls and the surging of the Conservatives at the expense of the BC United (formerly BC Liberals) is nothing but good news for the NDP.

It should mean that, even if there is a lot of dissatisfaction from voters, the splitting of the vote will help the NDP win seats they might otherwise lose. These recent events in Surrey may make the lofty objective of a huge majority a little harder to reach.

Frank Bucholtz writes every second week for Black Press Media.