It seems the provincial New Democrat leader Carole James' is having some difficulty pronouncing the words moderate and middle. In a scrum at the Victoria-Hillside nomination meeting, CKNW legislative bureau chief Sean Leslie asked Ms. James what city councilor Rob Fleming's victory said about the direction of the party. But Ms. James seemed to have some difficulty answering that question, despite repeated follow-up questions from Public Eye asking specifically whether the victory represented a shift to the moderate middle. She eventually settled on saying the win was a "significant decision by the people of Victoria-Hillside" and describing Mr. Fleming's and her own views as being "balanced."
An insider explained to us Ms. James, who has always been more interested in conciliation than confrontation, couldn't directly say Mr. Fleming's nomination was a moderate victory because she wants to keep the traditionalists within the party onside. Fair enough.
But, going into an election, one wonders whether Ms. James should be worrying less about what her supporters think and more about what British Columbians think. After all, it's going to be a bit difficult for her to convince voters the New Democrats are moving in a moderate direction if Ms. James feels the need to hide behind code words like "balanced" to describe her views - even if all her policies are pointing to the middle. The following is a transcript of the scrum.
Media Rob Fleming over no-mushy middle Steve Orcherton, Carole - what does that say about the direction of the party?
Ms. James Well the people in the constituency make the choice, not the leader. But, obviously, Rob's experience - his experience on city council. He's represented this community before. And people saw that as a good strong support. And I'm very pleased that we've got Rob today.
Media But I'm not sure whether that's the answer to the question. I mean, I think the question is whether (Mr. Fleming's election) is representative of a move to the moderate middle or (as some call it) the mushy middle? What do you think about that? I mean, you can say that the voters in this riding made up their mind. But do you think this represents a larger movement within the party?
Ms. James Well, in fact, it may be Steve and others using the mushy middle and the left or right. That's not what I hear British Columbians talking about. They want MLAs who are hard-working, who have shown their experience or represent the community well. And we have that in Rob Fleming today. I've very pleased. And I certainly hope that Steve will get involved and help in the campaign. We're going to need everybody together in this campaign…
Media I'm still not sure whether that's answering the question...
Mr. Fleming Are you calling me mushy?
Media I ask again. Following up on Sean's question, is this a move to the moderate middle?
Ms. James This was a significant decision by the people of Victoria-Hillside that they wanted a new face to represent them. They wanted to support the values that Rob Fleming put here today. Some people will describe those values as more moderate. Some people will describe them as the middle. I think they're values that I've been putting forward as a leader since last November. They're values that I think New Democrats believe in. And I think they're values that I believe in.
Media And you call those values moderate?
Ms. James I call those values balanced. They're balanced because I think they represent the balance of views out there by British Columbians. People are looking for a party and a government that represents fiscal responsibility, that will balance the budget and that has a social conscience that will support social justice. That's what we're representing. And people get into a debate about what that means. To me, that's a balanced approach. That's a practical, pragmatic approach. And that's the values that I represent and that I've heard Rob represent.