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December 7, 2010

Interim NDP Leader

"In the event that the position of Leader becomes vacant, the Provincial Council, after considering the recommendations of the Caucus, shall elect an Interim Leader."
NDP Constitution, Article 11.02

It is ironic that an Interim Leader of the NDP will be determined by the same body that the minority of 13 in the NDP caucus chose to ignore after they ruled on November 19th that the party's constitution should be followed. Since the majority of caucus doesn't rule anymore, how will they determine whose name they will recommend to the Council could be material for a comedy skit. I think they should draft Harry Lali, who is on record as saying there are no longer rules for caucus. It would be fascinating to see how the party and caucus would function under Lali.

Leadership candidates couldn't be Interim Leader and it would be difficult to have an Interim Leader who is identified as supporting one side or the other in the dispute over James. That may leave a very small pool for selecting an Interim Leader, a pool that will shrink further by withdrawals from those who don't like the prospect of being a punching bag for malcontents since the Interim Leader will see the caucus through most of the legislative session that starts in February.

Article 12.04 of the party's constitution requires the Provincial Executive to set the rules for the leadership race, where voting will be one-member-one-vote. They will determine spending limits, entrance fees and access to membership lists. Unlike the system proposed for the BC Liberal's leadership race where every constituency is given equal weight, under the NDP's system every vote will be given the same value. The constitution provides that all members who are in good standing 90 days prior to the date of the election of the Leader are eligible to vote. That means there could be a race for mass membership sign-ups with minimum membership contributions as there is no fixed fee to join the NDP. One of the most important rules to be set by the executive will be the date for the vote as that will determine the window for any membership drives. That is likely to be a very controversial decision. If they act quickly so as to have a leader in place for most of the legislative session, there will be virtually no time for membership drives. If they put the vote off to June, the Interim Leader will have to serve for the full legislative session and the party could be plagued by the kind of irregularities that troubled the leadership race that was won by Dosanjh.

Mike Farnworth, Adrian Dix, John Horgan, Bruce Ralston and the Sierra Club's Executive Director, George Heyman are possible leadership candidates. There must be some capable women who would also consider the position, although it remains to be seen whether the treatment James receives acts as a deterrent.

Whoever emerges as the next leader of the NDP will face an immense challenge to heal the damage that was done by the campaign against James. The malcontents had the option of following the constitution and defeating her in a leadership review, but they chose to force her out. Now there is a rebuilding job that shouldn't have been necessary.