B.C. NDP leadership speculation increases
The contest to replace Adrian Dix will be “quite a talent show”.
That’s according to Sue Hammell, a heavyweight in the B.C. NDP caucus. She represents Surrey–Green Timbers, a key bailiwick with a sizable party membership that could tip the balance in a leadership competition.
Now in her fifth term as MLA, Hammell was a cabinet minister in the 1990s when the New Democrats were in power. For a time during that period, her husband, John Pollard, vetted appointments in government. Her daughter Sage Aaron is the public face of Forward B.C. NDP, a new group that came about following the party’s unexpected loss in this year’s May 14 election.
“The race is wide-open,” Hammell told the Georgia Straight during an interview in Vancouver shortly after Dix announced on September 18 that he is stepping down.
According to the deputy house leader, a successor doesn’t necessarily have to come from within the caucus.
“I will support the best person, in my opinion, and I don’t know whether that would be inside or outside caucus,” said Hammell, who backed Dix in the 2011 leadership contest.
Two of her caucus colleagues who finished second and third after Dix are considering running again for the post. They are Port Coquitlam’s Mike Farnworth and John Horgan of Juan de Fuca, respectively.
“I do know that there’s a number of people who are looking at it and interested,” Hammell said. “We will have a great group of people.”
Asked what she thinks about ex–NDP MLA and now Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson, Hammell had this to say: “Oh, I think Gregor would be wonderful if he decided to jump into the race. It would make it interesting. I think there’s other people…there’s [Burnaby’s] Mayor [Derek] Corrigan. I don’t know if he [Corrigan] would be interested.”
She also said that federal New Democrats would likewise make good candidates.
When asked about Nathan Cullen, Hammell replied: “He’s another federal person.” Cullen is the Skeena–Bulkley Valley MP who ran for the federal NDP leadership in 2012.
“And so is Peter Julian,” Hammell volunteered, referring to the Burnaby–New Westminster MP who is also the current national caucus chair of the federal party.
Interestingly, Julian’s name was the only one mentioned by Hammell’s colleague in caucus Burnaby-Edmonds MLA Raj Chouhan.
“It won’t be a bad idea if somebody from outside comes in, who also is very deeply rooted within the party, has experience, has charisma, somebody like Peter Julian,” Chouhan told the Straight in a phone interview. “If somebody of his calibre could come in, I think that would be really good for our party.”
Chouhan went on to say that the four-term MP has a “balanced set of qualities”, citing his blue-collar and management experience.
Julian is a hard-working politician. At the community level, he cofounded a coalition that fought to save St. Mary’s Hospital in New Westminster. On the national scene, he was a founding member and executive director of the country’s largest citizen’s organization, the Council of Canadians.
“That kind of person coming from the outside would be really great,” Chouhan also said about Julian.
Former B.C. NDP cabinet minister Paul Ramsey expects four to six “serious candidates”, including old and new members of caucus.
Among the new members of caucus, Vancouver-Fairview MLA George Heyman and Vancouver–Point Grey MLA David Eby are often mentioned as potential leaders.
“I don’t think it matters greatly whether the person is within or outside of caucus when they enter the race,” Ramsey told the Straight in a phone interview. He explained that a successful contender from the outside would eventually have to seek a seat in the legislative assembly.
Dix had announced that he will give way to a new leader when his successor is chosen, probably sometime in mid-2014, before next year’s November municipal election.
“Obviously, Mr. Dix’s decision to resign is not the end of the renewal that the New Democratic Party has to undertake,” Ramsey said. “It’s just the first step.”