Thursday, May 21, 2009

They say the road to electoral defeat is paved with good intentions…

One week after the Liberal victory in British Columbia, Carole James has emerged from her time of reflection to announce that she will indeed continue to lead the New Democratic Party with an eye towards 2013 and a rematch with the Liberals and perhaps Premier Gordon Campbell.

While it’s admirable of Ms. James to show the dedication to push on towards her goal of forming a government, one has to wonder if it was a decision shared by many of her NDP members both elected and backroom varieties.

Perhaps it’s more of a case of her making a steady caretaker for the party, ready to watch over the proceedings of opposition while the party reviews and renews where they stand on the issues and decide what they must do to make that breakthrough with the voters that has eluded Ms. James on two separate occasions.

She may think that in four years time the province will be more accepting of her policies and vision, but in two trips to the polls so far, those voters have not quite found her to be of their liking.

It was under her guidance that the NDP established a rather controversial candidate selection process for ridings with non incumbent MLA's, all in a bid to seek to find representation for the Noah’s Ark of political correctness.

The quota system as it evolved was a laudable attempt to introduce more diversity to the nomination process, but carries one major and potentially politically damaging flaw, what happens if the selected candidate is one not endorsed by, or reflective of what the actual riding's voters might prefer.

Rather than have the grass roots of the riding associations have their say as to which candidate may best have their interests at heart, the NDP's backroom officials moved to drop in the candidates more to their liking as opposed to the members of party in the riding.

The decision to usurp the riding association’s role in the process must have left more than a few party workers to sit on their hands during this campaign, a relationship that will have to be repaired before the next election.

In fact if they are looking over the numbers from last week, it very well may be a policy that provided for the results when the counting was done. After all if the riding association isn’t whole-heartedly behind the chosen candidate, one wonders what hope the party and their chosen candidates had of convincing the general public.

It was on her watch the environmental side of the party abandoned the NDP, in some high profile cases endorsing the environmental policies of the Liberals under Gordon Campbell. It was an early sign in the campaign that Ms. James may have lost a good portion of that NDP base, which if they couldn’t stomach the idea of voting for Mr. Campbell, more than likely parked their votes with the Green Party.

If the NDP has hopes of repatriating that block of voters, then it may have to come with someone else at the helm.

Likewise, the other main base group for the NDP, the union movement seemed to sit this election out. With the exception of the Teacher’s union which provided for a number of television ads and a heavy lawn sign presence advocating for education. The public service unions, the nurse’s unions and other facets of organized labour seemed to be content to stay in the background during the campaign, no doubt voting for the NDP by way of ritual but certainly not organizing a concerted campaign to oust the Liberals.

Then there were the advocacy groups that travel with the political parties, both the Liberals and the NDP supporters seemed to cross the line at times with their third party advertising.

Whether it was the ludicrous and slightly humorous attempt at scare mongering of the North Coast Liberals over the price of beer, or the NDP affiliated ads that portrayed the Premier as nothing more than a drunkard, the high ground was clearly not the road taken.

The consensus opinion is that the NDP attack ads became more personal in nature against the Premier’s character, as they tried to counter the Liberal ads of James “not being a leader”.

And while there is the old saying that you need to fight fire, with fire. You have to wonder if perhaps Ms. James took her eye off the prize for a few weeks there in a bid to fight back, instead of outlining just what it was that the NDP would do to make BC a better place.

In the end though, it’s always the seat count that dictates success or failure in a campaign and in that case, the NDP showed little movement.

She did not make the inroads in some key communities that the NDP felt that they had a solid shot at, most prominently in the Prince George area where it was thought the NDP could take a number of the seats in the Central Interior.

And while the NDP held their own in the Northwest, it appears that it was done more on the strength of the local candidates than on the leader, she made few trips to this corner of the province, which judging by the results was the correct decision, but not one that translated into success elsewhere.

Somewhere down the line we wonder if the party members may ask her to reconsider her decision to seek a third attempt at forming a government, four years is a long time to tread water hoping that you can galvanize both the party and the electorate to endorse your vision.

Unless she can gather all the scattered groups that make up the NDP around her back to fold, we suspect that wish as she may, the party may ask for a leadership review well before Election Day in May of 2013.

24 Hours Vancouver--

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