What Next for the NDP?


I’m trying to figure out if I was surprised to hear of Carole James resignation or not.

Certainly I was sorry for Carole whom I believe is a fine person who probably, as I said long ago, is not of the right temperament for politics, BC style. She’s a conciliator not a fighter but ironically because she couldn’t conciliate her own party she had to leave. But, she couldn’t conciliate her own party because conciliators don’t work out in BC politics. Follow me so far…?
The first problem the NDP has is how to name a replacement. There is a clause for leadership review for next November but the review has just happened so when and how is Ms James to be replaced? While I don’t know a damned thing about the NDP Constitution it must allow for an extraordinary leadership convention when they don’t have one, as was the case when Glen Clark resigned in 1999 and in February 2000 was replaced by Ujjal Dosanjh.
The timing of a leadership race is a delicate question. Ms. James spoke of an interim leader in the New Year so the question is whether a convention is called before November or not. My suggestion – made so as to ensure it will never happen – would be to wait until next November with an interim leader, someone who agrees not to stand for leader as Dan Miller did in 1999. There are deep wounds within the party and to have an early leadership convention would simply have them deepen not heal.
These wounds reflect not so much upon Ms. James but on the divisions she went in with, mainly over the power of Labour within the party. These divisions are easily exacerbated in the NDP, especially when leaders are selected. One obvious division is personified by Moe Sihota whose salary is being paid by the Union movement. There are three factors there: 1. many just don’t like Moe very much; 2. there was resentment that the decision to pay him was secret; 3. the payment coming from Labour sent a message that Labour was fighting to recover lost territory.
To hold an early leadership convention would see much more blood spilt in public. It will be spilled anyway, but by November such cooler heads as there are in the party will have had a chance to look for ways to smooth over the ruffled feathers with a view to “fixing” the convention to the degree it can be fixed.
The obvious danger is that postponing the convention will give the new Liberal Premier a chance to build up his party’s fortunes; the extent to which they can do that depends, of course, on who that premier is. 
Who are the favourites for the NDP crown?
It’s rather like looking over a crop of yearlings and picking out which one will win the Kentucky Derby – there are many imponderables, the first of which is can he/she come from the 13 dissidents who brought James down?
Conventional wisdom says that Brutus never wins the crown – though the dirtiest, craftiest Brutus of them all, the now finally disgraced Brian Mulroney, is the obvious exception. The Bruta (assuming the feminine of Brutus), Jenny Kwan has a lot of IOUs in the party not just for her obvious abilities but for her service in the two person caucus after the 2001 debacle.
Assuming that you find any NDP MLA attractive, there are several attractive choices amongst the dissenters, Norm Macdonald from Columbia River-Revelstoke being one. Apart from being a dissenter he also comes from a small political base meaning he would have to earn delegates elsewhere.
Katrine Conroy and Robin Austin also suffer that problem. Claire Trevena certainly fits the right NDP image of being female and able to win a tough constituency.
From the ”loyalist” list we have several contenders including Dawn Black, Kathy Corrigan, Adrian Dix, Mike Farnworth, John Horgan, Michael Sather, and Leonard Krog.
I will, in a bit, give you my hopes rather than predictions but first there are three “outsiders” one cannot rule out no matter what they say.
Corky Evans may have been away but not so far that he couldn’t circulate a lengthy letter enumerating the sins of Carole James just when she least needed it.
Gregor Robertson denies any interest but I’ll be more persuaded of that stand after some time has passed, especially if there doesn’t seem to be a favourite emerging.
Joy MacPhail has been seen about these days and I mention her because she has a following and a not bad record as a cabinet minister in tough portfolios.
Now permit me to put my environmentalist’s hat on. Call me “one issue Rafe” if you will but to me the “environment” is the overriding issue and here’s why – we can lose money and we can fail many people and groups but those things can be fixed; while all harms and wrongs cannot be fully repaired, changes in government can usually make things better.
When we destroy our environment, it’s gone forever. Moreover, the people I mention I believe would clearly work to save the environment and also keep our commitment to good fiscal policy and social issues.
Norm Macdonald, mentioned above, would suit my criteria admirably. I’ve seen him up close and must say it’s a pity he will be dissed as a conspirator, but I think as time passes that will too.
I’m also impressed by Katrine Conroy who has deep roots in the party which will probably erase her “sins” if disloyalty to Carole James is that, and has a good record on the “environment.”
I have not mentioned Michelle Mungall from Nelson-Creston because she is a rookie and young – but young and free of old time baggage might be the way the campaign goes and stranger things have happened.
I also think that Mike Farnworth is an experienced legislator and sound on environmental matters. The experiences he’s had over the years has clearly strengthened him.
My main choice, in a tossup with Farnworth, would be John Horgan, the energy critic. He understands the terrible Campbell Energy Plan and the inevitable consequences of it. He also has been the most forthright on what must be done including the making public of all the IPP contracts and judging them as to whether or not they are unconscionable. The issue with John is health as he is a cancer survivor.
Am I, then committed to the NDP? Is the Common Sense Canadian so committed?
The answer is a resounding “NO!” In fact we would welcome the presence of another party pledged to the values we, and thousands of British Columbians are working to restore in this province we love. I would like to say that we haven’t given up hope on the Liberals but on their record, that’s surely too much to hope. Since the departure of Gordon Wilson in 1993 the Liberal party has become greedy and doctrinaire right wing, moving, lamentably, over the last decade, steadily to the “right,” to where they seem now to be just the political arm of the Fraser Institute.
The Common Sense Canadian is looking to saving our province from the fate of Brazil, Indonesia, Alaska, the Gulf of Mexico states and others which have had their heritage ravaged by greed accompanied, indeed encouraged by government policy or indifference.
We at the Common Sense Canadian are busting our asses to bring decency, common sense, and sensitive leadership to BC to replace the destruction of our heritage and that which makes us unique.
Far from being anti-business, all we ask is that companies behave themselves; all we ask government is to set out solid rules of environmental conduct and enforce them.
We don’t think that’s too much to ask and as we read it, neither does the majority of British Columbians.


About Rafe Mair

Rafe Mair, LL.B, LL.D (Hon) a B.C. MLA 1975 to 1981, was Minister of Environment from late 1978 through 1979. In 1981 he left politics for Talk Radio becoming recognized as one of B.C.'s pre-eminent journalists. An avid fly fisherman, he took a special interest in Atlantic salmon farms and private power projects as environmental calamities and became a powerful voice in opposition to them. Rafe is the co-founder of The Common Sense Canadian and writes a regular blog at rafeonline.com.

3 thoughts on “What Next for the NDP?

  1. McPhail and Kwan would be disasters as Premier, especially McPhail. It was McPhail that destroyed credible transit planning in the region by forcing the flip-flop from light rail to SkyTrain for what eventually became the Millennium Line.

    McPhail used great economies of the truth to push for the metro, so the NDP could secure a (now dismantled) fabrication plant for MK 2 cars.

    The flip-flop from LRT to SkyTrain has caused a great rift and has sentenced Vancouver and the region to huge property tax increases to fund more metro construction, such as the Evergreen line.

  2. ” But, she couldn’t conciliate her own party because conciliators don’t work out in BC politics. Follow me so far…?”

    Absolutely, and that is why the back of the Party system must be broken. There is no room in a people’s democracy for authoritarian leadership, especially when the hidden hands of business are operating the Premier’s chair.

    The bobblehead MLAs are unable to represent district consituents, for as employees of the Party they either perform the job discription or lose the job.

    he media and the propagandized minds of the public are always carrying on as those this can only be a two-horse race. No one notices there are 85 electoral districts with distinct needs and thus cannot be represented with one voice.

    It is time for a change, and that is the need for a House full of accountable Independents representing these distict regions.

  3. Farnworth has of course polled early as a frontrunner and as you point out of the loyalists in a toss up Horgan is the stronger politician.

    What concerns me is the focus on personalities versus what they hell they are going to do when they get the job.

    British Columbians are already being riveted to their seats to engage in watching a horse race of personalities when they should be getting of their ass and demanding policies that stop enriching a handful of globe trotters at our expense.

    This is where Common Sense and the work you and Damien do is important and I encourage you to keep their feet to the fire on policy not just personality.

    Great work you guys !

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