Carole James's leadership of the New Democrats is heading for a test on November 20. That's when party officials are scheduled to begin a two-day provincial council meeting that will debate resolutions supporting her leadership and others calling for a leadership race. According to a meeting agenda, at least four constituency associations have proposed a leadership convention in 2011 - which would effectively put Ms. James in the position of having to throw in the towel or compete for her current job.
Twelve other constituency associations support Ms. James with calls to hold to the party's constitutionally mandated leadership review vote in 2011 rather than open up a full leadership race.
The weekend meeting, which is being held at a harbour-side luxury hotel Victoria, comes as Ms. James is facing dissent over expelling Cariboo North MLA Bob Simpson, as well as the party's decision to pay its president Moe Sihota a stipend using what it has described as a "generous, earmarked gift from the labour movement."
In fact, we've learned there's now a call for that stipend to be reviewed by the New Democrats' internal oversight committee.
Opposition House Leader Mike Farnworth wouldn't comment on the resolutions calling for a leadership convention, saying, "I think that's what we have a party president for." Party communications officer Michael Roy stated, "We don't have anything to say about the matters you've asked about."
Those matters include complaints the council hasn't been given enough time to discuss all the resolutions up for debate - something that will happen 90 minutes before it adjourns on Saturday and two hours before attendees are bused to a party fundraiser celebrating former premier Dave Barrett's eightieth birthday.
In an email sent to the party's top staffer Jan O'Brien, former Nelson-Creston constituency association president Laurie Page questioned the New Democrats' decision to instead allocate more than five-and-a-half hours toward a Saturday morning policy development session.
"I am writing to object to this plan and appeal to your common sense," she stated. "I want to know that our provincial council delegate will have a chance to discuss and debate with everyone else."
In an interview, Ms. Page said she hopes the party isn't attempting to limit debate on the resolutions.
"Of course that crosses my mind. Why would they do that when there are so many things to discuss?" she said. "I hope that isn't the intent and that they're just misguided and living in a bubble and don't quite get it - that people are really going to need time to talk."
Meanwhile, Abbotsford-Mission constituency association president Lynn Perrin has written an email to her colleagues asking for the party's oversight committee to investigate "the salary/honorarium of President Moe Sihota IMMEDIATELY."
According to Vancouver-West End MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert - the liaison between the party and the opposition caucus - the New Democrats' top officials decided to pay Mr. Sihota in December, 2009. But news of that pay didn't become public knowledge until October.
Ms. Perrin wants to ensure that decision was made by the book. "I'm not on one side or another," Ms. Perrin said in an interview. "I'm like a bone when it comes to our constitution and I'm a dog with a bone when it comes to process. But I'd much rather be dealing with the issues the Liberals have created."
The council will also consider resolutions calling for Mr. Simpson to be reinstated to caucus, as well as the introduction of an automatic leadership review following an election loss.
The following is a complete copy of Ms. Paige's email, as well as the provincial council meeting agenda and an accompanying message from Ms. O'Brien.
November 20 provincial council agenda
Jan O'Brien, Provincial Secretary, BCNDP
Recently I heard that the next provincial council meeting is going to start off with an OPOF which will take up most of the first day.
I am writing to object to this plan and appeal to your common sense. Actually, I don't know whose common sense to appeal to, so I am copying to other people too.
It costs a lot of money to hold provincial council meetings. They are well worth it when they are a chance for constituency representatives, MLAs, and the executive to gather, debate policy, and deal with the business of the party.
The constitution says:
"15.02 Subject only to the authority of the Convention and the provisions of this Constitution, the Provincial Council shall be the governing body of the Party between Conventions."
It is clear to me that the primary purpose of provincial council is to meet and deal with business. Therefore that work should be done first. Holding an OPOF or any other event should only be possible if there is time left after the business is done.
So please: skip the OPOF, hold the meeting on Saturday and give ample time for dialogue. We have serious issues in front of us. I want to know that our provincial council delegate will have a chance to discuss and debate with everyone else. Please respect our right to democratic representation, and use our dollars wisely.
From: Jan O'Brien
Date: Mon, Nov 8, 2010 at 12:10 PM
Subject: Imagining Our Future
To: Jan O'Brien
November 8, 2010
Dear Provincial Council Delegates, Provincial Executive and MLAs, The BC NDP has heard loud and clear that we need to sharpen our policy and platform development in preparation for the 2013 election.
Our strategic plan recognizes the enormous pressure that exists on the NDP to articulate a clear, inspirational vision and platform. To this end, NDP Leader Carole James and our Caucus team have been developing an inventory of ideas through a series of community consultations across BC under the banner of Our Province, Our Future.
Your turn to be part of this work comes on Saturday morning, November 20, 2010 when you will be asked to engage in a policy development session called Imagining Our Future. (You can see the Imagining Our Future Agenda in the attached document. The formal Provincial Council agenda will begin at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday and carry on Sunday, November 21.)
The goal is to create inclusive and thoughtful policy development.
We want to imagine the place where we all want to live in and the ways and actions we need to take to move forward. At the end of the day, constituency and regional representatives will have a model and toolkit to engage our membership and supporters in the policy and platform development process.
It is essential that our members and supporters feel ownership of the vision and policy they are helping to create. Also, their contribution and this positive experience can lead to their enthusiastic participation in the 2013 election campaign. All these steps feed into our strategic plan goal of building an NDP alternative and new government.
When we brought the BC NDP Strategic Plan forward in the spring we said that the work of Sustainable BC Strategic Committee would be completed and incorporated into the policy development process and that the party would complete its review of platform development process by the November Provincial Council meeting. As a result, the following policy initiatives will be discussed on Sunday, November 21 during our Provincial Council:
Sustainable BC Operations Plan -The purpose of this plan is to frame our policy development in the values of Sustainable BC.
Streamlining Party policy committees to mirror the Social Policy and Sustainable Economy committees of Caucus.
A special Provincial Council site on the BC NDP activist website has been activated. A separate e-mail has been sent out with sign-in information. On this site, you will be able to access the Sustainable BC Operations Plan and a timeline and flow chart on policy development along with other Provincial Council documents including the full agenda.