The B.C. New Democrats should elect a leader sooner rather than later and start rebuilding the party, local candidates from the last provincial election said Friday.
“My feeling is we need to have a leader in place sometime next spring,” said Tom Friedman, the candidate for Kamloops-South Thompson. “I think it’s really important to, first of all, ensure the party is united and that we have a very effective opposition.”
The issue arose earlier this week when New Democrat John Horgan suggested the NDP should look to a next generation for leader and postpone the expected 2014 leadership vote to bolster candidates’ bids. A 2015 date has been tossed around.
Horgan, who came third in the 2011 race that elected Adrian Dix as leader, will not seek the leadership. Friedman said there is now division in the party as to when the vote should occur.
He’s of the mind that a leader needs to be in place as soon as feasible so the party can get to work rebuilding its image.
“The election isn’t until 2017, but the reality is developing electoral strategy and our platform is going to take some time,” said Friedman.
The NDP needs a concise platform and strategy, he said, adding the lack of both contributed to the party’s defeat in the May provincial election.
“We have to have a platform that’s going to resonate with the electorate and speaks to them directly. It’s going to have to be focused,” said Friedman.
Kamloops-North Thompson candidate Kathy Kendall can see the benefit of taking more time to elect a leader, but she, too, would rather have one in place soon.
If a younger, lesser-known candidate is elected, that person will need time to get acquainted with the voting public, said Kendall.
“It might be beneficial to have that person in place longer than for a shorter period of time,” she said.
Retired Thompson Rivers University political science professor Ray Pillar disagrees. He said the NDP should take a good look at who’s running before rushing into a leadership race. Even if a leader is elected in 2015, there’s still two years to build a platform.
He also agrees with Horgan, saying a younger leader is what the party needs.
“I thought that was a good observation, given what the older generation has done with the party of late,” said Pillar.
The NDP holds a party convention in Vancouver next month.