following column was prepared as a guest editorial for The
Steps for Carole James
November 23rd Carole James was elected leader at one of the
most exciting NDP conventions in over 30 years. At least a
third of the delegates came to the convention undecided; at
least three candidates stood a real chance. James won because
of her outstanding organization and ability. On her first
full day as leader she participated in some of the toughest
media appearances in the province, and came across as someone
with great promise. James will be a great asset in restoring
the NDP as a competitive force in BC politics - the only party
that stands a chance of challenging the Campbell government.
apologists put every tough question they could think of to
James. Without hesitation James confidently answered every
Bill Good said "You're Metis. Not much was made of that
prior to the convention yet most of the coverage since has
been focusing on that, does that surprise you?" James
responded "I'm certainly proud of being Metis, just as
I'm proud of being a parent, proud of being a woman and proud
of being a New Democrat."
in the interview, Good said "You have to stand for something".
James answered that the platform will be rolled out over the
next 18 months but added that the $6 "training wage"
would go as would the policy to kick people off welfare on
the basis of an arbitrary time limit.
who are wondering if the NDP can take the next step and become
competitive are seeing that Carole James has what it takes.
Jenny Kwan and Joy MacPhail are recognized as doing an outstanding
job in the legislature. Since the 2001 election, public political
support, as measured by public opinion polls, has jumped 50%
for the New Democrats (from 22% to 31%) and has dropped 24%
for the Campbell Liberals (58% to 44%). If a 14 point gap
remains on election day, May 17, 2005, the Campbell Liberals
will easily coast to a second overwhelming majority. The question
is what can Carole James and the New Democrats do between
now and then to close the gap?
skills will be used to build a broad coalition, to recruit
capable candidates and to advance the rejuvenated, modern
NDP's message. James will help the NDP grow by earning media
coverage in dozens of local papers and radio stations throughout
the province; she will meet with editorial boards and appear
on talk shows. Some pundits may raise unrealistic expectations
for the performance of the new leader, and then tell their
listeners and readers that she has failed to meet them. James
can talk directly to people and communicate with them through
were probably pleasantly surprised to read a November 25th
Vancouver Sun editorial that said "In electing an outsider,
the NDP at least has the appearance of having reinvented itself,
which could go some way toward restoring the public's confidence."
As someone who is not associated with former NDP governments,
James cannot be tied to past decisions. From 1990 to 2002
James served on the Victoria School Board, and as chair of
that Board for seven terms. Her role in education positioned
her as an advocate for education, and she criticized the former
government when she found it necessary. During an unprecedented
five terms as President of the BC School Trustees Association,
she demonstrated her leadership skills in bringing people
can expect her critics in the Campbell government to focus
on the role of labour in the NDP. New Democrats will not shy
away from defending the rights of working people, but they
have said that both corporate and union donations should be
made illegal. That policy was made law by the NDP government
in Manitoba. Records from Elections BC show that the NDP has
consistently raised more money from individuals than the BC
Liberals. In 2002 the NDP raised $1.95 million from individuals
compared to $1.08 million for the BC Liberals, but that was
almost all the NDP raised while the Liberals added a whopping
$3.04 million from corporations - almost 80 times as much
as the $39,000 the NDP received from unions. Under James'
leadership the NDP's relationship with unions will be modernized
but not abandoned.
a wise political economist, once said that the key to success
lies in who controls the terms of the debate. The water buffalo
tries to drag the crocodile onto dry land for the fight while
the crocodile tries to drag the buffalo into the water. Carole
James is quickly demonstrating that she knows when, where
and how to determine the terms of the debate. Gordon Campbell
and his apologists will find themselves debating on her terms
provincial election will be on May 17, 2005 - 18 months from
now. As the new leader of the NDP, Carole James has a lot
of work to do in those 18 months. She will be judged by how
voters respond, not by how the Campbell government and their
friends characterize her.