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"If an MLA feels he or she simply cannot work with the leader, abide by the wishes of the NDP, or support party positions, then the honourable action is to leave caucus and the party and sit in the Legislature as an independent MLA," according to former provincial New Democrat cabinet minister Paul Ramsey. Mr. Ramsey made that comment in an open letter sent to opposition caucus members in the wake of calls for a leadership convention. Mr. Ramsey stated such calls have already harmed the party's chances of electoral success, predicting public criticism of leader Carole James by MLAs Bob Simpson and Jenny Kwan "will figure prominently in Liberal campaign literature. Continued turmoil will provide more ammunition to our political opponents." As such, he urged dissident legislators to either quit caucus or put their personal feelings and ambitions "aside and work together for the success of our party." The following is a complete copy of that letter.

An Open Letter to Members of the British Columbia NDP Caucus

My fellow New Democrats:

I write to you at a time of great danger to our party. Those calling for a quick leadership convention are, I believe, acting contrary to the expressed will of the party that, like you, I have had the privilege of representing as an MLA. I also believe that, if our present leader, Carole James, is forced to step aside in this way, our party will be badly split for a decade or more and will have no chance of success in the next provincial election.

Those who are nominated by riding associations, have those nominations approved by the party, and are chosen by the voters to serve as MLAs have huge responsibilities and considerable power. But they do not have the right to select or depose the leader of the New Democratic Party. Our leaders are chosen democratically by the members of the NDP, and an MLA has no more votes to cast than any other party member.

Similarly the NDP caucus has no power to compel a leadership review or a leadership convention. These matters are determined by the party constitution and conventions and, between conventions, by the Provincial Council. The constitution even denies caucus members a vote at Provincial Council; these decisions are simply not yours to make.

On November 20, the Provincial Council said "no" to a quick leadership convention. Members of the Council said "no" clearly and overwhelmingly; what part of "no" is so hard to understand? I urge all members of caucus to abide by the expressed wishes of our party. Your responsibility is to work with the leader to prepare a winning platform and a winning strategy for the next election. Past NDP caucuses--both in opposition and in government--have focused on that task regardless of internal stresses that were at least as severe as those you face.

I assure you that for decades MLAs have worked with leaders they disliked and supported policies and platforms that they had personally opposed. Such is the nature of parliamentary democracy: MLAs have the power and privilege of helping to shape party positions, and they have the responsibility of vigorously supporting those positions in public.

If an MLA feels he or she simply cannot work with the leader, abide by the wishes of the NDP, or support party positions, then the honourable action is to leave caucus and the party and sit in the Legislature as an independent MLA. That too is part of the nature of parliamentary democracy.

I hope that all MLAs fully understand how much harm caucus disunity has already done to our chances of electoral success, whenever the next provincial election is held. Statements made by Mr. Simpson and Ms. Kwan will figure prominently in Liberal campaign literature. Continued turmoil will provide more ammunition to our political opponents.

As a rule, voters do not understand nor care about how parties or caucuses operate. They do care that a party demonstrate that it can run its own affairs before it is willing to entrust it with the affairs of the province. And they do care that a party is concerned about issues important to them. Regretably, the obvious discord in the NDP caucus has already eroded public confidence in its ability to be a competent government. The longer such discord continues, the less the public will believe that the NDP has voters' concerns at heart or has the ability to address those concerns.

In closing, I appeal to all members of caucus to honour and respect the work and sacrifice of those who have built and served our party in the past--often under circumstances far more difficult than those you face now. You are the latest in a long line of New Democrat MLAs; put personal feelings or ambitions aside and work together for the success of our party.

In solidarity, Paul Ramsey

5 Comments

Be serious Paul.
Fourteen Independent New Democrat MLAs are going to be just as damaging as Jenny Kwan speaking out. These folks are between a rock and a hard place trying to figure out the best thing to do on our behalf. You want them to continue to prop up an incompetent leader instead of telling the truth? BC deserves better.

Give us a break- Paul.
"I write you at a time of great danger " PR
"These are dangerous times my friends - The socialist hoards at at the door !" WACB
We are in danger of losing another election because we have no leader.
"Our leaders are chosen democratically" uh - more or less at least once and their mandate is for life -- ??
"Members of the Council said "no" clearly and overwhelmingly; what part of "no" is so hard to understand?"
What an awful thing to be said by anyone who believes in democracy. That vote was an act of intimidation and orchestration. The date should live in infamy.
" You are the latest in a long line of New Democrat MLAs; put personal feelings or ambitions aside and work together for the success of our party." On this we agree the success of the party can only be assured if Carole James is gone- Force her out! Make it quick and make it neat. Then turn to Moe and point to the door through which Carole has gone.

Another member of the old guard wades in. Ho hum.

"If an MLA feels he or she simply cannot work with the leader, abide by the wishes of the NDP, or support party positions, then the honourable action is to leave caucus and the party and sit in the Legislature as an independent MLA." What a pile of hooey! The members rule--not those people entrenched in the steely-eyed inner core, all without members' democratic support. What the hell happened to Sustainable BC, voted in by members at Convention? That was supposed to be one of the party positions! Never heard a word from Carole on that during the entire election campaign.

What happened to One Member One Vote? Apparently only well-heeled members who can afford to go to Convention can vote. That denies "one member one vote". Mail-in votes are more democratic.

The thing is Carole has lost two entirely winnable elections, thanks to incompetency or corruption. There's no other explanation. She needs to be gone, and her ineffective and possibly corrupt entourage with her.

I have been mildly annoyed with the stances taken by Carol James over several years, but until now, never enough so to stop supporting her against the Liberal machine.

However, from everything that I have been able to find out about recent events, It has been Ms. James who is to blame for most of the very public dissention we see now. It was James who threw Simpson out for criticizing her decisions. It was James who demanded total loyalty. It was James who handed out yellow scarves to supporters and NOT to dissenters. It is James who is completely and totally responsible for the public disintergration of my party. for this, I cannot forgive her.

Yes, the Liberal machine, and their mian stream media minions are are wringing their hands in glee over this disintergration, but put the blame where it lies, not at the feet of the full third of her caucus who are disagreeing with her.

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