B.C. NDP leadership race brings forth ideas
Retired NDP cabinet minister Corky Evans never had a lot of patience with toeing the party line. In a recent e-mail to the Georgia Straight and three independent Victoria-based journalists (Paul Willcocks, Andrew MacLeod, and Sean Holman), Evans declared that when he first entered provincial politics in 1986, candidates were allowed to use their own words to express their beliefs.
But the former horse logger from the Kootenays claimed that this wasn’t permitted in the 1991 election, which the NDP won under Mike Harcourt’s leadership.
“Candidates were, essentially, instructed to read from the script or keep their mouths shut,” Evans wrote. “I remember going to candidate school in 1991 and being told ”˜Open your book to page 11. That is the script. All the rest of the book is background so you will understand what we are saying.”¦and any deviation from that script will be remembered and you will not like the reaction you get from us.’ ”
Evans claimed in his e-mail that he never really mastered the art of spin or sticking to the “message box”.
Yet he acknowledged that the public doesn’t like to hear a party or a government speak out of both sides of its mouth. That’s why politicians keep their mouths shut until the “Centre”, as he called it, tells them what to think.
“This is ironic, given that elected people are essentially in the business of ideas,” he noted.
However, Evans claimed that there is one period when new ideas can be discussed candidly—during a party leadership race. At that time, he maintained, candidates are expected to say what they think.
Evans should know. He ran twice for leader of the B.C. NDP, losing to Glen Clark in 1996 and to Ujjal Dosanjh in 2000.
“This is not just true of the front runners,” Evans wrote. “In a leadership contest even candidates with no chance of winning are expected to be honest about their thoughts on a myriad of subjects.”
And he stated that for those who ignore the opportunity to discuss ideas now—while there are vacancies at the top of both the B.C. Liberals and the B.C. NDP—then, “like they say at weddings, we should ”˜forever hold our peace.’ ”