What do British Columbians want out of a premier? Do they want a leader or a mediator? I've been thinking about that question over the past few weeks because I believe the answer could, in part, determine whether the New Democrats form government in 2013 if they confront a resurgent Liberal or viable third party in the next election. In 2005, opposition leader Carole James sold herself as someone with a balanced, commonsense approach to government - someone who would focus on solutions that benefit everyone, putting an end to British Columbia's confrontational politics.
Chances are that's how she'll sell herself in 2013, rejecting the us versus them approach the New Democrats took in 2009. But not every decision a government makes can be win-win. If push comes to shove, if a choice has to be made, what side will Ms. James take? What are the intellectual processes and ideological values she'll bring to the bargaining table she wants to setup in the premier's office. That has always been unclear, creating a credibility gap for Ms. James.
Because while it's laudable for a premier to listen to all sides - to mediate British Columbians' competing concerns - Ms. James needs to be a leader as well, telling us how she'll make the tough decisions rather than just reassuring us that she can.