Wednesday, December 22, 2010

BC NDP Leadership Update: Julian edition

The BC NDP may have two new prospective contenders, almost two weeks after their leadership convention was officially called - though they haven't made up their minds yet. No one's bothered to take the plunge, in fact, unlike the BC Liberal's 5 confirmed candidates.

The two new candidates, Peter Julian and Bruce Ralston, are both known faces in the NDP, and both have some excellent experience. They'll join Harry Lali, Leonard Krog, Mike Farnworth, and Rob Fleming in my list of probable candidates for the BC NDP's leadership (which, fyi, is better than the Globe and Mail's, considering that Nathan Cullen doesn't want the job).

Peter Julian is the federal NDP MP for Burnaby-New Westminster, and has been since 2004. He's had no other real experience, except for his time as a community activist, and a one-time run at New Westminster's City Council. However, 6 years as an MP has made Julian an experienced speaker and debater, and usually when he rises during Question Period, he starts a good show (though, still, he is a Dipper, so you are always a little disappointed). It seems he is somewhat of a surprise candidate, and so he's an unknown quantity. I don't know how much support he would have among the NDP's caucus, or among all BCers. He's a pretty left-wing guy. Julian has yet to make a decision, but if he does, he'll make it in the next couple of weeks, and then presumably resign as member for Burnaby-New Westminster. I wonder if Radwanski will start complaining about the provincials poaching Julian?

Bruce Ralston, on the other hand, is a fairly known quantity. The MLA for Surrey-Whalley and the NDP's finance critic, Ralston was first elected in 2005 and has been fairly noticeable ever since. He was the party's face when they came out swinging against the last Liberal budget, and has been on the forefront of the HST fight for a long while now. However, that being said, Ralston isn't well known, and he isn't very popular; according to Angus Reid's poll on the leadership contenders, only 7% of BCers thought of him as a "preferable" candidate, while 12% of NDP voters felt the same way. While we don't know how many people thought of him negatively, I assume the small amount was due more to a still relatively low profile, rather than anything he's done. However, this is still an unacceptable thing for the NDP to have; they must have a high profile candidate, or they risk being swept up by the Liberals, whose frontrunners are all well known.

While neither of these two candidates will mean there's a game changer, Julian, as I said, is an unknown candidate. He could very well be the dark horse candidate no one expects. We'll have to wait and see.

For the moment, however, I'd still say Mike Farnworth is the presumptive frontrunner. Whether Angus Reid's numbers are right or not, Farnworth is well known and popular; he would present a challenge to the Liberals if he's in charge. That's what I assume NDP members and voters are looking for.


  1. The contenders that have expressed a strong interest so far:

    1. Bruce Ralston

    2. Harry Lali

    3. John Horgan

    4. Mike Farnworth

    5. Leonard Krog

    6. Peter Julian

    7. Adrian Dix

    8. Rob Fleming

    9. George Heyman

    10. Dana Larsen

    The contenders who would likely be the most electable with the public at large IMHO:

    1. John Horgan
    2. Mike Farnworth
    3. Peter Julian

    The likely winner from the outset IMHO:

    1. Adrian Dix

    The problem that the NDP has is that its membership base is only ~10,000 and is still bleeding members due to the perceived undemocratic palace coup against Carole James.

    Another problem is that the cut-off date for any new member sign-ups is January 17. Potential contenders likely won't announce until after Monday, January 3, which leaves them with a very short window for new sign-ups (and party renewal).

    Furthermore, the remaining membership base is quite activist left-wing and Mike Farnworth is on the right side of the party and considered a centrist.

    The NDP faced considerable push-back from their membership with Carole James moving to the centre and reaching out to business. That was one of the reasons that CJ was dumped.

    OTOH, again with new membership, the Liberals have been signing up new members for weeks and will sign up new members for another 2 1/2 weeks (until Feb. 4) after the NDP cut-off date.

    The Liberals have ~35,000 members and expect that figure to reach ~60,000 after the cut-off date.

    Finally, Peter Julian is taking a big risk by resigning his seat (a sure thing) against running (very uncertain).

  2. Wow, I had no idea things were so bad within the BC NDP. I suppose it makes sense, though; their "coup" against James has had a very messy aftermath, while the Liberals have managed to keep their composure.

    I noticed you mentioned Horgan and Dix; I personally don't think they'll take the plunge if they don't announce their intentions by the new year. Is there any reason you think they will?

  3. At the outset, the 3 main contenders bandied about were Farnworth, Dix, and Horgan. All have strongly indicated their intentions to run through various media, letters to constituents, etc. that I have seen.

    I give each a 95% probability of throwing their hats into the ring but I guess we'll have to wait and see.

    Nobody will likely announce until after Monday, January 3 in the new year. Again, only under two weeks to sign up new members after that, which is a poor move by the party.

    Horgan - Relatively unknown even within the party and NDP voters (as confirmed by various polls) yet has a good grasp of the issues, is affable/good sense of humour, and has some charisma. Baggage - political chief of staff for Glen Clark.

    Farnworth - Centrist, non-ideological, very tough on crime, and likable but probably won't appeal to much of party's left-wing base. (like Pat Martin is to federal NDP)

    Dix - Polarizing, ideological, not a great communicator but ranks at top with NDP voters in Ipsos and other polls. Baggage - fake memo to cover up for Glen Clark and was fired as a result.

    BTW, Angus Reid Strategies was again in the field both yesterday and the day before and probably will release their results either today or tomorrow.

    PS. A Mustel poll that was released last week showed that Carole James topped the poll for new NDP leader with NDP voters according to an interview with Evi Mustel on Global BC. Go figure!

  4. I saw the Mustel poll just after I finished this post on, that is something! If the new NDP leader can't reverse some of that negative trending, they'll sorely regret what they did to poor James - not that I'll miss her, mind you.

    I'm a Liberal, so you could see why Horgan and Dix don't appeal to me, which is why I like Farnworth so much for the leadership out there. Your analysis just confirms my doubts; you're also not kidding about Dix being polarizing. Isn't that the kind of thing the NDP and James wanted to avoid? If the remaining members choose him as their leader, I suppose all the work James and co. did will be for naught.

  5. I personally think there is a significant danger for the Federal NDP in BC due to what is going in Quebec related to their own version of the HST. Thomas Mulcair has already said the NDP would support federal transition funding for Quebec's version of the HST despite the contradictary nature this position would seem to be vis a vis BC and Ontario. I suspect though at the the time Mulcair assumed it was unlikely the Federal government and Quebec would be able to come to any sort of agreement on the HST.

    However, with what seems to going with Harper and Larry Smith trying to make a big inroad into Quebec an Ottawa-Quebec HST agreement may not be as far away as the NDP originally suspected.

  6. I don't vote NDP anymore but Ralston earned my respect when I lived in the riding. Very practical man with a good mind for finances.

  7. That's an interesting analysis, Tim. I didn't even think of that, but now that you mention it, there is some serious danger; their anti-HST stance in BC and Ontario, arguably their powerhouse provinces, and Mulcair's contradictions in the province they want to make inroads in, can't help them in the long run.


    Thanks for the comment. I don't know much about him, so I can't say, but we'll see if he runs.