One of the baker’s dozen seeks the NDP leadership


Nicholas Simons, one of the 13 New Democratic Party MLAs who banded together to drive out leader Carole James, has become the first member of the Opposition caucus to enter the race to succeed her.

Simons, the two-term member of the legislature for Powell River-Sunshine Coast, announced his candidacy to the Georgia Straight and the Powell River Peak newspaper Tuesday.

His two-part interview with the Straight is posted on You Tube.

Among other things, he tries to put his role as one of the so-called baker's dozen dissidents behind him, insisting that the caucus is now united and moving forward.

He says he's running because "it is important to have a new voice." If he were to form government, he says "policies will be based on good research, good consultation and good common sense."

He also cites the need for government to live within its means — "a balanced budget is what you strive for at almost all costs."

Simons, a former child care worker and former manager of health services for the Sechelt Indian band, was first elected to the legislature in the NDP comeback in 2005. Also a proud player of the cello. He comes from a musical family, as he notes in the interview with the Straight.

He's served in several critic roles, not attracting much attention in any of them.

He's better known for being a bit of a jokester in and out of the legislature. But like other spirited people, he also has a reputation for a quick temper.

For instance there was that incident at the caucus meeting on the eve of the James resignation.

Simons, as one of the dissidents, was spotted jabbing his finger in the direction of caucus colleague Mable Elmore, a James' supporter. "Do you want to fight? Do you want to fight?" he was overheard to say by Global TV reporter Keith Baldrey. But when Baldrey approached, Simons backed off.

Afterward, New Democrats, trying to make light of the incident, joked that in a hypothetical fight, Elmore, a bus driver, could probably have taken Simons.

For his part, Simons had no apologies for his visible lack of support for James. When Province columnist Mike Smyth asked why he hadn't donned the yellow scarf, Simons replied: "I'm not putting a noose around my own neck.

There was also the episode on the eve of the 2009 election.

The occasion was a signing ceremony between the provincial government and the Klahoose First Nation, a band whose traditional territory overlaps with Simons riding of Powell River-Sunshine Coast.

The province was giving the band $2.1 million to acquire a tree farm licence in the region.

Simons was present for the forestry agreement in his capacity as MLA. But he and Klahoose chief Ken Brown had earlier found themselves on opposite sides of the controversy over run of the river power development.

The Klahoose are major players in one of the biggest of the projects, the one at Toba Inlet within the band's traditional territory. And Brown is an unabashed defender of the project as source of revenues, jobs and economic development for his people.

Simons and the NDP are sharply critical of the projects. After the signing ceremony on the forestry agreement, there were reports that he had at one point heckled the Klahoose chief.

Here's the account published March 11, 2009 in the Powell River peak by editor Laura Walz:

"The Peak received an email from James Delorme, a Klahoose community planner, who wrote that Simons was disrespectful at the ceremony. Delorme stated he overhead a commotion while he was filming on his camcorder.

"As I was trying to see what was going on, Mr. Simons turned in my direction and said to me, 'That Ken is a f***ing a*******.' I was shocked to hear this and had no response.'
"Delorme also wrote that Simons said, 'What's wrong with him [Brown]? What did I do? I never did anything to him?'
"Other media have reported that Simons heckled Brown during his speech and that Brown refused to shake Simons' hand after the signing.
"Simons denies he ever said anything disrespectful about Brown. 'I was personally hurt when he recoiled when I tried to shake his hand,' Simons said. 'I certainly did not heckle him during his speech; I didn't hear any heckling. People listened to the chief.'

"Simons added he thought the ceremony was lovely. 'People listened to the chief with respect and the Klahoose should be congratulated and they were. My interaction with the chief was unfortunate and I think we're both past it.'
"Simons said he denies making any comments to Delorme. 'Why would he want to do this? I find this so unfair. People know me and I think they know me well enough to know that I am passionate about everything I do. I would never be disrespectful to a chief. I've worked in first nation communities most of my professional life. I value and nurture relationships with people, I don't try to break them down. That's why I wanted to attend that ceremony.' "


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