This Sunday (April 17), B.C. NDP members will finish picking their new leader.
Whoever is victorious, leadership hopeful Mike Farnworth will be remembered as the one who managed to garner support from a broad spectrum of people from within his own caucus and outside of it.
Long-time NDP veterans such as Richmond city councillor Harold Steves and Kootenays-based former NDP cabinet minister Corky Evans have thrown their support behind Farnworth, as has four-term Vancouver-Mount Pleasant MLA Jenny Kwan, along with NDP environment critic Rob Fleming (Victoria-Swan Lake) and Baker’s Dozen alumnus Lana Popham from Saanich South.
“Well, I think I made it clear right from the very beginning that we’ve got to be united as a caucus, and we’ve got to be united as a party if we’re going to win the next election, because if we’re not, we won’t,” Farnworth told the Straight today (April 14) by phone. “And I think that’s the approach that people have seen me bring to politics during most of my career.”
Farnworth said he used the same approach while on city council in Port Coquitlam. However, the 51-year-old confirmed his teamwork instincts go right back to his childhood in the Tri-Cities.
“I am the eldest of five kids,” Farnworth said. “I think that you learn to work together. As my dad used to say, I think when I was first elected [in 1983], ”˜He’s the eldest of five kids, and if you give him money...,’ if it was to buy candy or treats or something like that, give me the money and I would make sure everybody got their fair share. You know, that’s just part of the role of being the eldest sibling, I guess.”
Farnworth is quick to point out he’s also a dog lover, and even during this busy campaign, he’s also managed to turn over the soil in his as-yet-empty vegetable garden and add manure and compost, ready for planting.
“This Easter weekend I’ll plant potatoes and cabbages,” he added.
The Straight noted that, over much of the past three or four years, Farnworth cut an austere figure on TV as the NDP’s solicitor-general critic, as he talked about crime, for the most part, on the news networks.
“I enjoyed being solicitor-general critic immensely, but when you are the critic, that’s the area that I’m critic for, so it is restrictive in the sense that you are dealing with public safety and law and order issues,” Farnworth conceded. “And so, you know, you’re not out there talking about the environment. You’re not out there talking about health care. You’re not out there talking on other issues, you know, or your thoughts on intergalactic space travel or whatever. You’re talking about public safety.”
People either tend to like you in that critic area or they don’t, he added, and although he said he “enjoyed” the portfolio, “there is far more to me as a person, and to my life, than being a public safety critic”.
This might be the reason Farnworth has discovered one thing about himself during the leadership race that he wanted to share with the Straight.
“I still enjoy politics as much as I always have,” he said. “It’s not that I wasn’t energized, but I find when you go into this, it does reinvigorate you. It gets you excited and it gets you”¦it makes you realize why you’re in politics. Sometimes you forget. But going out there, you know who you represent.”
On Sunday, we’ll have a better idea how much attention Farnworth will be able to give to his garden this summer and beyond.