Jenny Kwan isn’t ruling out the prospect of running for leader of the provincial NDP.
“Right now that’s not my top priority,” Kwan told the Straight in a phone interview, after she issued a statement on December 1 calling for change in the party’s leadership. “What I would like to see is [the NDP] to have a leadership convention.”
The long-time Vancouver–Mount Pleasant MLA also indicated that she’s not leaving the NDP caucus despite having publicly criticized the leadership of Carole James.
“I believe that my party is worth fighting for, and I’m going to do everything to fight for our party and to fight for democracy within our party,” she said. “And I think that the time has come for change and renewal. I think that to ensure that our membership has a voice in this, we would actually have a leadership convention—a one-member, one-vote leadership convention—as soon as possible.”
Kwan’s call found support in Nicholas Simons, NDP MLA for Powell River–Sunshine Coast.
“We need a leader who’s capable of making sure that we provide a strong vision for the province,” Simons told the Straight in a phone interview. “I think that it’s essential we are positioned in such a place so we can show people that we’re not just the second-worst choice. We need to be progressive. We need to be a party that respects divergent views.”
Kwan and Simons are two of the 13 NDP MLAs who were seen not wearing yellow scarves in support of James at the party’s recent provincial council meeting in Victoria.
“A leadership race would invigorate and strengthen the party, I believe, through rigorous debate that allows people to present a platform or a position that gives encouragement and enthusiasm for progressive policies for the future,” Simons said.
In her statement, Kwan cited the lack of democracy in the NDP under James.
“Debate has been stifled, decision-making centralized, and individual MLAs marginalized,” Kwan stated.
She also noted that several members of the caucus are “shocked at how some critical decisions are made or how caucus decisions have been later altered”.
“Equally dismaying is how MLAs then learn about these decisions through the media,” she wrote. “This poor decision-making practice and a lack of genuine consultation within our Caucus is an ongoing source of frustration for many within the Caucus.”
Kwan also pointed to the “clear lack of direction” by the party. “Whenever a challenging policy decision arises, often the default position is to avoid taking a stand,” she stated.
In the interview, Kwan indicated that the last straw for her was the “backroom deal” that provided compensation for party president Moe Sihota.
“I firmly believe that backroom deals should have no place in today’s politics,” Kwan said. “Carole James knew about this deal, and she didn’t intervene. Our caucus only recently was informed of this arrangement. If we are going to ensure that we have the trust of British Columbians, then I would say that engaging in such questionable practices is a recipe for disaster.”