Top of Mind - October 18, 2010

Will another provincial New Democrat legislator take public action over Carole James's decision to expel Cariboo North MLA Bob Simpson from the opposition benches without consulting caucus?

Perhaps. Norm Macdonald, who announced he was stepping aside as caucus chair on Friday, wasn't the only one rumoured to be considering making such a decision last week. But the weekend and pressure from James supporters could have prompted the MLA to rethink that decision. We'll see what happens this week.

Is the present unrest surrounding Ms. James's leadership of the New Democrats related to a left-centre divide within the party?

Not necessarily, although the narrative is convenient for both Ms. James's supporters within the New Democrats and members of the province's governing party. For James supporters, having the dissidents described as being from left erodes their credibility and distracts from the other reasons why some opposition MLAs are disgruntled. For the Liberals, it reminds the public there are leftists within the New Democrat ranks. But while ideology is driving some of the dissent against Ms. James, there are other long-standing concerns at play: concerns about the performance of the leader; concerns about what some see as the mushiness of her vision; concerns that are shared by those on the left of the party and what passes for its right.

What does the unrest within the New Democrats mean for the unions, the party's traditional allies?

It could be an opportunity for the unions to reassert themselves within the party. In 2005, there was a move to reduce the influence of big labour at New Democrat conventions. But it's important to remember Ms. James's herself hasn't been adverse to accepting union support in the past, with her 2003 leadership campaign receiving 49.97 percent of its funding from unions. Indeed, notes from two New Democrat provincial executive meetings obtained by Public Eye and A-Channel British Columbia's Shachi Kurl, show labour organizers have been used to rebuild the party's constituency associations and that the movement is being heavily tapped for donations. So, if they now back the New Democrats' weakened party leader rather than the dissidents, big labour - which is anxious to escape the political wilderness of opposition - could be back in a big way.

1 Comment

".... wasn't the only one rumoured to be considering making such a decision last week. But the weekend and pressure from James supporters could have prompted the MLA to rethink that decision. We'll see what happens this week."
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Hmmmm..... I wonder which MLA that could be? One wonders whether what has transpired over the past 10 days will now blow over or whether it has now become too deep rooted.

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