LAST Saturday (March 18), Harry Lali soundly defeated the Chief of the Lower Nicola Indian Band, Aaron Sam, to win the NDP candidacy for Fraser-Nicola riding. About 400 people voted.

Lali told The VOICE on Monday: “Aaron Sam’s got a future in the party – that’s for sure. He’s young. He’s somebody I can train to take over once I am done.”

Lali will be facing off against Liberal Jackie Tegart to whom he had lost by about 600 votes in the 2013 election.

NDP Leader John Horgan had tried his level best to dissuade Lali from running as he favoured Sam, but Lali refused to back off.

Last month, in an article titled, “Harry Lali is no puppet – and he’s standing firm,” I wrote: “It seems that the provincial office staff have gone out of their way to trip Lali up, including refusing the proposal by the Fraser-Nicola NDP executive to hold the nomination on March 25 because they had to find a place big enough to accommodate the hundreds of voters that are expected to turn up in the hotly contested election.

“As I had written [in January], NDP Leader John Horgan had tried every tactic possible to persuade / bully / bribe the bit-too-outspoken Lali to step down in favour of Chief of the Lower Nicola Indian Band Aaron Sam.

“But Lali, who evidently felt that that was just too undemocratic if not outright dictatorial, told Vancouver Sun’s Vaughn Palmer that if he had felt that someone other than himself could beat the Liberals, he would have stepped aside.”

After winning the nomination on Saturday, Lali said: “[Premier] Christy Clark has ignored the industries that our communities depend on. While her rich friends enjoy billions in tax breaks, people here are paying the price. Just ask the 250 Tolko sawmill employees who lost their jobs in Merritt.”

He said the Christy Clark government is driving up costs for everyday people. He added: “Since becoming premier, Christy Clark has increased your MSP premiums, ICBC and BC Hydro rates, and raised tuition fees for your kids.

“Christy Clark has not been working for you, and the Liberal MLA has also been missing in action for four years. An MLA’s job is to fight for constituents and community issues.

“Here in Fraser-Nicola, working people and their families deserve a government that is making things better, not harder. That’s why I’m standing with John Horgan and the NDP – to make our BC better.”

Horgan said, “Harry Lali has a long record of standing up for people and communities in BC’s interior. It’s time for a government that works for everyone all across BC.”

Lali, who was a cabinet minister, has won four times from that region. He was MLA from 1991 to 2001, and then from 2005 to 2013. He remains the longest-serving South Asian member in any Canadian provincial legislature or federal parliament. Lali lives in Merritt with his wife and has three children.

– RATTAN MALL