Richmond councillor Harold Steves says B.C. NDP's problems extend far beyond who's leading the party
The B.C. NDP has “lost touch with the grassroots”, says one of its former MLAs.
Harold Steves made this observation as he weighed in on the party’s situation following its unexpected election loss last spring.
Steves was a member of the first NDP government during the early '70s.
A cofounder of the Agricultural Land Reserve, the longtime Richmond councillor and defender of farmland is a respected figure in many circles in the province.
“There’s a lot more wrong with the NDP than just Adrian Dix,” Steves told the Straight in a phone interview. “It runs pretty deep.”
After failing to steer New Democrats to victory last May, Dix faces a leadership review in the party’s fall convention.
For Steves, it’s going to take more to fix the NDP’s woes than simply replacing the leader.
“They’ve become totally a parliamentary organization,” he said.
In terms of the party leadership, Steves said that "they're simply invested in political power", and not much else, least of all the building of a grassroots-based movement.
When New Democrats chose a new leader in 2011 following the bitter ouster of Carole James, the Richmond councillor endorsed Port Coquitlam MLA Mike Farnworth.
According to Steves, he “felt that Farnworth might open up the party to more environmentally concerned people, and more to a grassroots movement”.
Farnworth eventually placed second to Dix in the race. If he runs for leader again in a new contest, the Port Coquitlam MLA may no longer be able to count on the support of Steves.
“I would hope that if they have a leadership race today, it would be somebody entirely new,” Steves said, referring to the seven new members of the NDP caucus, who were elected last May 14.
One of them, Vancouver-Fairview MLA George Heyman, “stands out as a potential leader”, Steves said.
Vancouver-Point Grey MLA David Eby and New Westminster MLA Judy Darcy are good as well, Steves added.
Heyman did not grant the Straight an interview last Friday (August 30), citing his busy schedule on that day.
Steves is also hopeful that the new members will have some influence in moving the party toward a stronger environmental advocacy.
“What has been missing from the NDP caucus is a strong environmental presence,” Steves said.
Even though he has a lifetime membership, Steves said that he has distanced himself from the party.
Over the years, he has worked closer with Greens and other people who are passionate on issues such as the preservation of farmland.
As a life member, he is an automatic delegate to the fall convention.
"I'll be going but I don’t hold my breath," Steves said. "If they come up with some new people—and the old guard is prepared to step down and relinquish control over the party and widen our base by involving the membership as a movement rather than as a political machine—then I'm back in."