Wednesday, December 8, 2010

BC leadership: NDP edition

Because the BC Liberals' leadership race isn't really bustling right now, minus the addition of heavyweight Mike De Jong, current health minister, and the eventual, probable entry of former Deputy Premier and Kinsella favourite Christy Clark, I thought I'd do a run over on the newer race: the one to replace Carole James.

While the field is not really clear at this point, there are several names already thrown around, including two that have confirmed an "interest," or at least have turned their head slightly to look at it. However, real heavyweights within the NDP-sphere, including such veterans and big names as current MLAs Jenny Kwan, Dawn Black, and Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, have all declined their interest in the position. While you'd think after 7 years of the same leader, experienced, worthwhile candidates would be chomping at the bit to take on a dispondent BC Liberal Party, yet, here we are.

Anyways, here's some of the names thrown around so far, people I think for sure will jump in:

Fraser-Nicola MLA Harry Lali, an experienced MLA first elected in 1991, who was apart of the dozen or so MLAs that spoke openly against James' leadership, as confirmed his interest in the leadership, and is so far the only one to do so directly. Lali served in cabinet from 1998 to 2001 as Minister of Transportation, and serves as an experienced voice for the NDP caucus, though not a very prominent one, serving only as its Multiculturalism critic. He won't have a lot of name recognition to start off with, but if he declares first, he'll reap the benefits first.

In opposition to the anti-James Lali, Rob Fleming, MLA for Victoria-Swan Lake, has said people are "expressing interest on his behalf." That's a fairly clear indication of interest on his part, I think, even if he doesn't say so. Fleming is from the Class of 2005 MLAs that bolstered the NDP's ranks from 2 members to 33, defeating former Liberal MLA and former federal Liberal candidate Sheila Orr in the riding. Fleming has been known as an avid ally of James, sticking by here throughout all the troubles she's had. He's experienced, though not as experienced as Lali, serving as chairs of a few legislative committees before entering the legislature in 2005, as well as a Victoria city counillor from 1999 to 2005. He's tabled numerous private members bills in the name of all sorts of things, from logging to education, and is a known face among the NDP caucus and its members, near as I can tell. If Lali entered, Fleming would be a good counterbalance; young vs. old, pro-James vs. anti-James, Victoria-area vs. Interior, etc.

Mike Farnworth, MLA for Port Coquitlam, is another interesting name to have been thrown out there. He's the NDP's House leader, is widely considered a moderate, and is relatively experienced, being elected as a MLA in 1991 when the NDP were in government, gone in the 2001 wipeout, but back again in the 2005 resurgence. He's also served as a Port Coquitlam city councillor for three terms. Was never in cabinet, but still an experienced fellow, being involved with the NDP long-term and as its House leader, knows the ins and outs of the legislature. Farnworth didn't confirm nor deny interest, and we'll have to wait until we get a clearer picture, but I think he'll run. He'll grab that moderate vote for sure, and could even bridge the gap between pro-James and anti-James forces, as he doesn't seem to have been involved in either camp too much.

Nanaimo MLA Leonard Krog, who is also a former leadership contender that lost to James back in 2003, is the current Opposition Attorney General critic, and would probably be considered somewhat of a "dark horse" candidate, given that no one has yet to throw out his name, and he's not really well known. That being said, he was apart of the anti-James group, he is relatively experienced, and this is an excellent opportunity to at least try for the leadership.

... And that's all I've got for now. I'll be sure to expand this list later if I can. Given that James only resigned a couple days ago, the field does need some time to form. But the four I mentioned above I'm willing to hedge my bets on for throwing their hat in the race. It'll be fun to see both the BC Liberal leadership race, and the BC NDP race, side-by-side, and compare. How each party resolves their leadership crises will be key to understanding who will have the upper hand come 2011.

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