Provincial New Democrat leader Carole James has said neither her MLAs nor her party will be involved in recall campaigns to unseat Liberal legislators. But the participation of individual New Democrats in those campaigns was brought up at a meeting of the party's provincial executive on September 21. In an interview with Public Eye, executive member Tom Friedman explained, "A lot of people at that meeting, on the teleconference, were already committed to doing something as individuals." Mr. Friedman said party president Moe Sihota was among those who addressed the subject. His "impression" of Mr. Sihota's message was that "as an individual we can certainly work on behalf of citizens' initiatives. But we have to be really careful not to do so as official New Democrats."
"He recognized the reality that party members are going to be at the forefront of the recall effort and being quite cautious and not letting people's enthusiasms get the party into trouble," Mr. Friedman continued.
"Given the mood of a lot of NDP members. I think that warning was appropriate and the timing was really important because the recall call is starting to roll and he wanted to get in right at the beginning to give people a good sense of what their activities - how they should be seen, just to be very careful about how things are done. I don't think he's going to stand up and say we're forbidden to getting involved in recall. That wouldn't make sense given the mood of most NDP members."
Mr. Friedman took notes of the meeting and another that occurred on July 14, copies of which were obtained by Public Eye and A-Channel British Columbia's Shachi Kurl. In an email, he stated those copies "do appear to be the same ones I generated during the two NDP Executive teleconferences."
According to the notes, Mr. Sihota made the following points during the September meeting: "Carole is taking the view that recall should not be seen as a partisan issue; we should step back and not take a leadership role. Below the surface, though, it is a partisan effort. It becomes imperative in the 18 constituencies that our people begin to get active as individuals. The law forbids organizations from being proponents for recall; it has to be done by individuals."
The executive, as a whole, also discussed how the New Democrats "can't be seen to be taking a leadership role in the recall effort under the party label for legal and optics reasons. We can do these things indirectly. Target constituencies - will the NDP be continuing to work in those constituencies as the recall goes on."
As for the issue of the harmonized sales tax, the notes paraphrase Mr. Sihota as stating, "The NDP position is that a successful referendum will kill the HST- we're off the hook re: renegotiating the agreement with the feds. The gov't has taken ownership of the issue and it's out of our hands."
Through a spokesperson, Mr. Sihota stated, "These minutes are a reasonably accurate depiction of the meeting." He didn't have any further comment at publication time.
Mr. Friedman said he didn't know how his notes got into the hands of the media. The following is a complete copy.