New Democrats are promising change. However, the more that former B.C. NDP cabinet member Gordon Wilson looks at some of the familiar faces that may constitute an Adrian Dix government, the less he’s convinced.
“It’s old and tired and bent and busted,” was how Wilson put it in a phone interview with the Georgia Straight.
British Columbians will be “reelecting, effectively, the NDP of the 1990s”, he said.
“Because I knew all of these guys when I was elected,” said Wilson, who was MLA for Powell River–Sunshine Coast from 1991 to 2001. “I don’t see too many fresh, new, bright faces.”
Of the 31 incumbent B.C. NDP MLAs running in the May 14 election, eight are indelibly identified with the 1990s, when New Democrats ruled.
These include Dix, now party leader. He was a ministerial assistant in the government of Premier Mike Harcourt and, later, chief of staff to Premier Glen Clark.
Mike Farnworth of Port Coquitlam was elected MLA in 1991, the same year that Sue Hammell of Surrey–Green Timbers was elected. Malahat–Juan de Fuca’s John Horgan served as chief of staff to Premier Dan Miller as well as ministerial assistant and political staff during the Clark years.
Leonard Krog of Nanaimo was elected in 1991, and so was Harry Lali of Fraser-Nicola (then largely Yale-Lillooet). Vancouver–Mount Pleasant’s Jenny Kwan has been an MLA since 1996. Surrey-Whalley MLA Bruce Ralston was president of the B.C. NDP from 1996 to 2001.
Former party leader Carole James was quite amused by Wilson’s opinion. “I have to chuckle because we did have two seats in 2001, and when we were elected in 2005, we brought in almost a brand-new team,” James told the Straight in a phone interview. “In fact, many people said some of the challenges we had in 2005 were because we had so many new people and so few were returning MLAs.”
In 2005, a total of 33 B.C. NDP MLAs—including James, representing Victoria–Beacon Hill—were elected. “Anyone who talks about a return to the ’90s just needs to look at our team and look at our numbers,” she said.
With 31 MLAs running for new terms and the balance of the 85 seats to be contested by nonincumbents, James said she believes that New Democrats have the right mix.
“I think that’s exactly what the voters are looking for,” James said. “They’re looking for new energy. They’re looking for experience. They’re looking for a team that will bring new approaches and new ideas but also understands the real challenges that you face when you’re in government, and the tough choices that have to be made ahead.”
Wilson noted that he hears people say they’ve made up their mind that it’s time to change and dump the B.C. Liberals. “But then I keep saying, ‘Okay, we’ll take a look at who’s going to get in,’ and then I start talking about the people who are standing to get in. And the response is, ‘Oh, my God! These are the same old people.’ ”