Feature Story                                                                                                Tuesday, January 22, 2013


MacAhonic Gets Her Mandate

Chilliwack NDP well-armed for May provincial election battle

Staff/Voice photos


BC NDP leader Adrian Dix holds Gwen O'Mahony (L) and Patti MacAhonic's arms up in a victorious gesture Saturday. Below, Dennis Adamson speaks prior to the vote.


omewhere in the background, above the din of laughter and applause, When Irish Eyes Are Smiling played softly.


On Saturday, local BC NDP members met at the Arts and Cultural Centre for yet another precedent-setting vote that saw Patti MacAhonic beat out contender Dennis Adamson for the Chilliwack riding.


When the vote was tallied, it confirmed what many in the community had already been saying; that the battle between Adamson and MacAhonic was like a pork chop versus a pit bull — with lipstick. 


Team MacAhonic's support was palpable. Disciples wore black tee shirts emblazoned with "Patti for Positive Change" in bright orange lettering.


Chilliwack-Hope MLA Gwen O'Mahony, the NDP skills and training critic, was acclaimed for her riding.


During her speech, O’Mahony said her office is extremely busy and she needs MacAhonic's help in the legislature.


“I need Patti in Victoria. I need her in the riding because there are a lot of things that need to be done and I need the help, so we have to get Patti MacAhonic elected."


O’Mahony will square off with old rival BC Liberal Laurie Throness for her  riding in the May provincial elections, and MacAhonic will take on John Martin.


MacAhonic said she is now “officially unemployed”. Last week she announced that she would step aside from her tenure as Executive Director of the Chilliwack Chamber of Commerce if successful in her candidacy bid.


One of the more interesting things about political nomination meetings is who's at them.


A supporting cast of around 150 showed up Saturday, including party leader Adrian Dix, Sannich South MLA Lana Popham and Surrey-Green Timbers MLA Sue Hammel.


Beloved centenarian Jean Scott stole the show when she used her cane to conduct a spontaneous rendition of the national anthem.



Sue Hammel (R), Gwen O'Mahony and Patti MacAhonic listen to their boss Adrian Dix.


MacAhonic delivered a terse and impassioned speech, basically reiterating a previous statement she made during her party nomination announcement two weeks ago.


“I've beaten the odds many times. I have been the underdog many times, and what I know those experiences is that I thrive on challenge. And the challenge I want to take on today is building a stronger future for the people of Chilliwack.”


MacAhonic referred to Tommy Douglas, the founding spirit of the NDP and father of Canadian health care legislation, saying he balanced 17 consecutive budgets as Saskatewan premier, and was responsible for the creation of crown corporations.


 "As long as truth is on their side, underdogs can do remarkable things," she said quoting Douglas.

Referring to the Liberal government, MacAhonic said that people are upset with “fear-based” politics and called on party members to “unite progressive thinkers”.


MacAhonic's father Jim Coyle, an ex-longshoreman now blind, was there cheering his daughter on and even helped her campaign with a $1000 donation.


When Adamson took the podium, he said in a roughhewn address that he was the better candidate based on his 4 years of public service as the Fraser Valley Regional Director for Area B in Yale.


"I'm already working for the people of Chilliwack because I sit on the hospital board and the regional board. I'm already making decisions that affect their lives every day," he said. "My four years of local government experience will help defeat the BC Liberal candidate."


“I've gone door-to-door and talked with people, and they've told me they were sick and tired of a BC government that only cared about big business and not about working class families.”


“They told me they were tired of waiting for doctors,” he continued giving an example of a Chilliwack resident, who despite living in the city for 7 years, still couldn’t find a family doctor.


Prior to the vote, Adamson was pragmatic when asked by The Voice how he felt his chances were against MacAhonic due to the fact that he lives in Yale and she's in Chilliwack.


"I'm not going up against anyone from Chilliwack," he said. "I'm going up against someone from Chilliwack Lake Rd. Neither one of us can vote, neither one of us are from Chilliwack."


"So, the closest to Chilliwack wins?" he asked.



Adrian Dix speaks with long-time Chilliwack NDP supporter centenarian Jean Scott.


Later, when Dix took the Rotary Hall floor, he spoke about the value of youth in the party and how young people are disenchanted with politics.


“When Liberal MLA John Les won in the last election, a lot of people didn't vote, a lot of young people didn't vote in that election because I don't think they saw their vision reflected in our colleagues,” he said referring to the Liberals.


“They know that the economy isn't delivering for young people. They know that there needs to be a health care system that responds to the needs of seniors, they know that the Enbridge Pipeline isn't good for British Columbia.”


Dix said his party would opt out of an equivalency agreement the BC Liberals inked with the federal government, which in layman’s language just means that any “decision of the federal government will be the decision of the provincial government.”


“There will be no special deals for Enbridge. No special deals for Kinder Morgan and we in BC will make our own decision,” insisted Dix.


Dix also said he anticipates the Liberals will spend millions of dollars in a negative advertising campaign over the coming months.


“The hard road to victory is something different, it's not responding to personal attacks because I will not do that. The hard road to victory is going door-to-door and talking to your neighboours and people in your workplace about the changes they'd like to see.


MacAhonic and O'Mahony are demonstrating that Chilliwack politics is no longer an archaic men's club out of touch with the community.


Women are more nurturing then men and the Chilliwack community needs a lot of nurturing after years of Liberal and Conservative estrangement.


Somehow, it’s hard to imagine MLA John Les sitting around making Christmas decorations and gabbing with other women from the community like Gwen O’Mahony did last year at her office, or leading a group of carolers at the hospital like Mayor Sharon Gaetz did last holiday season.


When it comes to accessibility, O’Mahony’s office doors are open. Dozens of paintings from the Golden Pallete Club hang on the walls. This is in stark contrast to MLA John Les where you need a buzz code to get into his ivory tower. You get the picture.


As MLA, O’Mahony has set the bar high, but it's not so stratospheric that MacAhonic can’t jump over it, because if elected, the community will expect the same from her team as well.


The NDP is flexing its muscle with a pair of very determined and scrappy Irish women whom the community loves. And if you listen closely, you can hear the sounds of gloves being laced up.



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