Former provincial New Democrat leadership candidate Craig Keating is urging Carole James to develop a vision for what it means to be a centrist social democratic in British Columbia - before it's too late. Speaking on Public Eye Radio this weekend, Mr. Keating remarked, "There is no guiding principle that defines what social democratic centrism might look like in British Columbia - what ideas we might support whether we're in government in or in opposition. And I think there's a lot of hard work that needs to be done about that."
"I think Carole is in a very unique position," he continued. Having been elected leader of the New Democrats in 2003 - at a time when the party only had two members in the legislature - she "had a unique opportunity to put her imprint on the party. And I think she still has that opportunity" by test running "ideas about what her centrism looks."
But didn't Ms. James show what her centrism looks like in the party's last election platform? "Having been involved - and I don't think I'm speaking out of turn - in some of the debates that created that plaform, I think clearly the platform was articulated to do exactly what it did - which was to highlight a few speaking points that differentiated ourselves from the Liberals and help to portray (Premier) Gordon Campbell as a bad, bad man. And let's face it, let's face political reality - the 33 seats the NDP got in the last election was not because we put forward a centrist agenda. It was because there was a broad group of people across British Columbia who thought Gordon Campbell was a bad, bad man and that he's done a lot of bad things. And that platform helped reinforce that. It was a strategic platform not a visionary platform."
So how does Ms. James go about becoming a visionary? According to Mr. Keating, she needs to deliver a series of "perhaps risky" speeches telling members, "I want to reinvigorate the party on a policy issue. I'm going to put some content on the line. And we're going to move forward to turn this party into something that it hasn't been before. Building on it's past but turning into something that is a twenty-first century social democratic party."
But is Ms. James able to do that? "I know Carole and I've been on the road toward Carole and I have no animus toward Carole. So I'm giving her certainly the benefit of the doubt on this. I don't see anybody else in any of the wings of the party who's going to do it right now," Mr. Keating responded.