"In politics in British Columbia everybody has an opinion." That was how provincial New Democrat leader Carole James responded to Bill Tieleman's criticism that her caucus has "lost its sense of direction." During a scrum earlier today - her first since returning from a trade junket to Taiwan - Ms. James expressed confidence in her caucus saying, "we would not have had an independent children's officer in this province if it were not for the questions that the Opposition has been asking."
But it's not just Mr. Tieleman, a columnist for 24 hours, who has gone public with concerns about the party's "political blunders." Over the summer Doug McArthur, the deputy minister to two New Democrat premiers, suggested cardholders have been wondering, "can we go through to the next election with the current leadership?" And, at a community conference in Merritt, Yale-Lilooet legislator Harry Lali reportedly said his caucus "ought to be out there pushing back much harder against the Liberals."
When asked whether she thought such views were widespread within the party, Ms. James responded, "You'd have to ask individuals. Everyone has an opinion, as I said...There's great support out there for the work we've been doing as Opposition and we're going to continue to do our job." She then defended her less combative approach in the legislature, saying she proved during the election campaign that you can be cordial but also "be very tough on the issues."
Ms. James also commented on the utility of her Taiwanese junket, saying "The people of this province need to see how important the economy is. And they need to see that all the leaders they elect are reaching out for business opportunities for our province. That's part of my elected job - is to make sure that I'm looking for every opportunity to bring business and to build those relationships for British Columbia."
And, even though Opposition legislators can't sign trade agreements on the province's behalf, Ms. James maintained Taiwanese officials were "very pleased to have anyone from British Columbia there. Because they were very clear about the fact that we have not been present in Taiwan - that there's been missing opportunities."