Marijuana activist Dana Larsen has been written off by many pundits as a no-hope provincial New Democrat leadership candidate. In fact, a few months ago, ex-MLA Corky Evans told Mr. Larsen he might be humiliated or even damaged by entering the race to succeed Carole James. But Mr. Evans has now stated, "I was so wrong that I am embarrassed to remember I said it."
In an email sent to friends and supporters and obtained by Public Eye, the former cabinet minister - who has endorsed Mike Farnworth's bid for the party leadership - wrote Mr. Larsen's "ideas and his capacity to express them" has elevated New Democrats.
According to Mr. Evans, the Cannabis Culture Magazine founding editor showed off those qualities when responding to a question about taxation issues during a recent debate in Nelson.
"Dana has never suffered under the oppression of a Message Box, so he probably doesn't know that it is exceedingly rare to hear a politician say, just straight up, who is stealing from who and why," Mr. Evans stated.
"When he explained to people that the Liberals are not stupid and the outcomes of their actions are not mistakes but the intended result of policies meant to degrade the role of the Province, he received the largest (I didn't have a meter, but I think I am right) applause of the night."
But Mr. Larsen wasn't the only leadership candidate Mr. Evans had kind words for. In his email, he also praised Adrain Dix for his mastery of numbers and data, John Horgan for talking the best and Mr. Farnworth for being the most likely to lead the party like a conductor rather than a dictator.
As a result, Mr. Evans concluded, "Do I care who you vote for? Not even a little bit. I will work for any of them."
The following is a complete copy of the aforementioned email.
Letter from Corky:
Thoughts after the NDP leadership debate in Nelson:
I love Leadership races. If it wasn't for the exhaustion and the stress and the financial burden imposed on the candidates, I would like to see it happen every year.
I didn't count, but I am guessing there were over 200 people in that room last night. Good people. Lots of people I haven't seen all winter. They came from towns a hundred miles away, sometimes over the pass or across the ferry. And they liked it.
I stood by the door for a while when it was over and listened to the folks talking to each other as they left. The most common comment was "now I am more confused than before I came." They meant that before they came to the meeting they thought they knew who they might vote for, and after listening to the five candidates they realized they liked more of them than they had known and they had no idea how to vote. What a wonderful problem for the members to have.
I will never forget Adrian starting the evening with a tribute to Sandy Korman. I hope she saw that, wherever she is.
Over the course of the evening, Adrian was so good with numbers and data and analysis that if he ever becomes Premier, he should do like WAC Bennett and Dave Barrett and name himself Finance Minister. If any of the other fellows on that stage ever get to pick Ministers, we will all be best served if it is Adrian who is chosen to manage our money and decide who pays and how much they pay.
He called his bedrock belief "equity." Most of the people in the room, myself included, have never said it that well, but nobody, not one person, could have misunderstood his motivation in wanting to lead.
But the real star of the taxation issue, at least according to the applause, was Dana. Dana has never suffered under the oppression of a Message Box, so he probably doesn't know that it is exceedingly rare to hear a politician say, just straight up, who is stealing from who and why. When he explained to people that the Liberals are not stupid and the outcomes of their actions are not mistakes but the intended result of policies meant to degrade the role of the Province, he received the largest (I didn't have a meter, but I think I am right) applause of the night.
John, obviously, talks the best (even though he kindly ascribed that label to Dana.) He sounds like we, the members, do when we know what we are talking about. I was thrilled when he said he never wanted to hand out another pamphlet that talked about why we want to get rid of the other guy, he wanted to run on what we believe instead of who we despise. Amen. Amen. Amen.
I was so happy that one of the members' questions was about farming. I have been on that stage and nobody, outside the Peace and maybe Kelowna, ever asks about agriculture. Even more impressive was the fact that both Mike and Nicholas promised to move us to "the National Average" in support for food production and candidates wanted to require hospitals and schools to serve B.C. food and you could vote for any of them and get Buy B.C. back. I am hopeful that this "sea change" in New Democratic politics reflects a shift in interest in the general population and maybe even (it being OK to dream) it will show up as an issue in the coming, Provincial, election.
Most of the candidates said, one way another, that they were running to defeat Liberals and form a government. Nicholas talked about wanting to lead and described Leadership as "like being a conductor. Not playing an instrument, not even facing the audience, but orchestrating the music of others." (I used quotation marks to suggest that those were his comments. They were not, however, his words. He said it better and I am just quoting the gist.)
I asked Nicholas months ago what had moved him to want to run. He told me that he had won his original nomination back 5 years or so ago and he felt he had won because he said what he thought and he said it well and people liked it. And then he had been elected and stripped of his voice by Message Box politics and hadn't been able to speak freely ever since. He told me he wanted to run to speak his mind without censorship. (Again, the gist, not the words.)
I agree with Nick abut the role of the Leader as conductor. That is, if the Leader understands that their job is to get the very best from the people around them. I also agree with him that the leadership race is precisely the right venue to speak the truth as you know it. The beautiful thing about any leadership race, and the best part of this one, is that the Message Box is banished and the spin-doctors go home and the strategists are pretty useless and candidates are encouraged to tell us what they believe in and how they will lead.
I told Dana some months ago that he should not run, that he would be humiliated and, perhaps, damaged by the experience. I was so wrong that I am embarrassed to remember I said it. Not only is Dana received with dignity by the membership but his ideas and his capacity to express them elevate all of us. I sure do like it that I was so wrong and I sure do respect and appreciate him for ignoring my advice.
As you know, I will vote for Mike. We walked into that building together a couple of decades ago and then sat next to each other while we learned our jobs. He has been an elected person at one level or another pretty much since he was 23 years old. He is a true Parliamentarian and he is the person I think is most likely to lead "like a conductor."
Do I care who you vote for? Not even a little bit. I will work for any of them.
People who haven't participated as candidates often refer to a Leadership race as "divisive." What clap-trap. I watched those five people compliment each others skills and answers and contribution. I heard the members talking about their confusion as they left the room, like a customer at a cafe faced with five flavors of pie.
Damn, I like this process.