Top of Mind - December 6, 2010

Will provincial New Democrat leader Carole James step aside?

The decision yesterday to postpone a planned emergency caucus meeting where MLAs would be "held to account for their actions" represents a climbdown for Ms. James and her supporters. Caucus chair Kathy Corrigan has said that decision was made to "ensure that the clear direction set by our leader and our party is followed" - giving time for "private discussions." But, from our perspective, Ms. James's hard line approach toward dissent surrounding her leadership of the New Democrats resulted in the expenditure of significant internal political capital she just didn't have. As a result, the risk of 13 MLAs actually being expelled from or quitting caucus at the emergency meeting proved to be one some parties were unwilling to take. So what happens now? Well, at this hour, it's difficult to conceive of a political circumstance where Ms. James doesn't resign. But the timing and manner of that departure remain to be seen.

How is the New Democrat leadership crisis affecting the Liberal leadership race?

Last Thursday, Mike de Jong's entry into that race was knocked out of the headlines by Vancouver-Mount Pleasant MLA Jenny Kwan's public critique of Ms. James's leadership. The continuation of that crisis will likely give Mr. de Jong's competitors pause before making any major announcements lest something similar happen to them. Indeed, if CKNW host Christy Clark has decided to step up to the starting gate, her supporters would be well-advised to make that decision public after the New Democrat leadership crisis is resolved - providing her with a clearer news hole. Although that might not be possible if the crisis extends past mid-week.

What does Rich Coleman's decision not to run to succeed Gordon Campbell mean for the Liberal leadership race?

It's assumed that decision benefits Kevin Falcon, who is now the only right-wing candidate in the race. But consider what would happen if at least some of Mr. Coleman's supporters and organizers were to back Ms. Clark's candidacy? That's a possibility - one of the could provide her with a counter to critics who say she would be unpalatable to federal Conservatives.

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