Simpson probes James's lines of defence

Last night, on Voice of BC, provincial New Democrat leader Carole James suggested Cariboo North MLA Bob Simpson didn't take advantage of internal opportunities to address his concerns with the party's direction. "In fact, he didn't attend one of the policy development meetings," stated Ms. James, who expelled him from caucus on Wednesday evening. But, in a media release, Mr. Simpson stated he didn't attend that meeting because "I was visiting my Father who has been diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer. However, I had met with both the Caucus Chair and the Chief of Staff and shared my thoughts with them and spoke individually with three other members of the Committee. I also followed up with the Caucus Chair after the meeting and continued a dialogue with him about the structure of the Retreat." A caucus spokesperson couldn't confirm if Mr. Simpson and Ms. James were referring to the same meeting. The following is a complete copy of the aforementioned release, in which Mr. Simpson addressed what he referred to as other "inaccurate statements" about his expulsion.

REALITY CHECK

Some inaccurate statements have been made about the Leader's decision to remove me from Caucus. This is unfortunate and I hope the spin stops before irreperable damage is done to the reputation of those involved.

Claim: I was unhappy with the Liberals and I left them and now I'm unhappy with the NDP and left them too.

Fact: Yes, I left the Liberals when I found that the real Campbell agenda was privatization, deregulation, corporatization and autocratic rule. I have not left the NDP, I was removed from Caucus by the leader. I am still a member of the party and still contribute to it thru PAC.

Claim: I've been unhappy for some time.

Fact: This is true and I've been raising my concerns within Caucus, with the Leader and her Chief of Staff, and with the President. I was using the internal processes available to me to express my concern that we were on the wrong path, lacked substance, and were not getting any traction with the public. Throughout this period I offered what I believed were constructive suggestions for how I thought we could improve, including how we might address the growing negative perception of Carole's leadership.

If unhappiness with the current state of the Party and its leadership is now a "firing offense" then there are a lot more people who should be concerned about getting fired.

Claim: A number of things were done to address my concerns, including the Planning and Priorities Committee and the Policy Retreat.

Fact: P&P was not formed for me, it is a standard, traditional committee of Caucus. I was Chair of P&P for part of the 05-09 term. However, this term it has met infrequently and has now been "disbanded." The latest "Strategic Plan" did not go through that Committee, which it should have, if it had been functioning properly.

I was a strong advocate for a substantive policy retreat and wrote a full outline for a three day Retreat for the Caucus Chair. I'm glad that retreat, which the Leadership tried to keep to only one day, is now taking place and I'm disappointed I will not be able to participate in something I feel I worked hard to make happen. (I submitted my suggestion for policy discussion to the Chair last week).

Claim: I failed to attend one of the policy development meetings.

Fact: This is true. I was visiting my Father who has been diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer. However, I had met with both the Caucus Chair and the Chief of Staff and shared my thoughts with them and spoke individually with three other members of the Committee. I also followed up with the Caucus Chair after the meeting and continued a dialogue with him about the structure of the Retreat.

Claim: Bob has been a destructive force in Caucus for some time.

Fact: I guess questioning the direction of the Party, challenging our strategy and offering constuctive feedback and criticism is now "destructive."

I offered and eventually was asked to assist in reshaping the "Our Province Our Future" dialogue sessions that are taking place throughout the Province; helped shaped the policy retreat; was actively working on a discussion paper on Aboriginal Relations (similar to the one I wrote for Foresty); actively participated in Estimates debate in my own portfolio and continued to assist with Foresty and with Agriculture.

I was looking forward to the Policy Retreat and had had many conversations with the Caucus Chair and Whip about how to make that a real success.

If I was a "destructive" force for so long, I'm curious as to why neither the Leader, her Chief of Staff or the Caucus Whip have challenged me and directed me to stop such "destructive" activities.

Claim: I criticized the "team."

Fact: The precipitating event for my ousting from Caucus was a column with two sentences offering soft criticism of Carole's speech at UBCM.

I challenge the Leader and any of her staff to provide definitive evidence of where I have publicly criticized Carole's Leadership or the Caucus Team prior to Carole removing me from Caucus.

I will continue to press for renewal in the NDP as a member of the Party. I did not want to do that from outside Caucus, that decision was made by the Leader.

Have a great Thanksgiving weekend.

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