Although no New Democrat is yet publicly calling for the departure of Leader Adrian Dix, such calls could come as the party reflects on losing a lead of up to 20 points in the polls against the embattled B.C. Liberals. If Mr. Dix decides to go, the job description of his successor would include the ability to rally the NDP troops after this week’s devastating defeat, as well as the charisma and drive to take on Premier Christy Clark. Some prospects:
GREGOR ROBERTSON Former Vancouver-Fairview MLA and Vancouver mayor since 2008. Co-founder of the Happy Planet brand of organic fruit beverages.
Argument for: Twice elected mayor, a winning record that may be appealing to New Democrats. Previous mayors Mike Harcourt and Gordon Campbell used the office as a springboard to the premier’s office. Mr. Robertson’s business credentials might inoculate him against Liberal attacks on the NDP’s economic record. He has assembled a skilled, behind-the-scenes team, and how long before Mr. Robertson and that team look to larger projects – such as running B.C.?
Argument against: Municipal politics was a new opportunity for Mr. Robertson after a stint as an MLA he didn’t entirely seem to enjoy. Would he want to go back? Unclear he has the gusto to rally New Democrats, especially after the drubbing of the election campaign. Hard to see him doing the evening rallies across the province that were a Dix staple. Does he have the charisma to out-charisma Christy Clark? Would Vancouver’s mayor play outside Vancouver?
NATHAN CULLEN The NDP Member of Parliament for Skeena-Bulkley Valley raised his national profile as a contender for the leadership of the federal New Democrats – a race eventually won by Thomas Mulcair. Afterwards he was promoted to NDP House Leader.
Argument for: Charisma and energy, enough to fuel an LNG plant. As MP for a largely rural riding the size of Norway, Mr. Cullen would bring an interesting perspective to the debate over the development of B.C. resources. Although well known on the national level, he would be something of a fresh face.
Argument against: Presumably waiting to see how the New Democrats do in the 2015 federal election before deciding if he’s interested. Might prefer to remain in Ottawa to take a shot at eventually succeeding Mr. Mulcair. Like Mr. Robertson, he has no seat in the B.C. Legislature, so would not be able to promptly front the opposition case against the governing Liberals.
MIKE FARNWORTH Port Coquitlam MLA from 1991-2001 and elected again in 2005. Veteran cabinet minister in the decade of NDP government, including stints as minister of health as well as social development, employment and municipal affairs. Ranked second in the 2011 NDP leadership race that saw Mr. Dix become leader.
Argument for: More executive experience than other NDP prospects. Seasoned enough to know where New Democrats have been and where they might have to go in future. Affable enough to have good odds of holding his own in the charisma clash with Ms. Clark.
Argument against: Mr. Dix never actually held a cabinet post in the NDP governments of the 1990s, but the Liberals were relentless in tying him to NDP missteps of that era. It would be easier with Mr. Farnworth. Not exactly a fresh face.
JOHN HORGAN Juan de Fuca MLA since 2005. Energy, mines and petroleum critic. NDP house leader.
Argument for: Came third in the NDP leadership race. Experienced critic in a file that will be relevant to key debates. Given his wry manner and forceful approach, he would easily fit with any NDP move to go negative in the 2017 election.
Argument against: Is he too angry for voters? Would be interesting to see how he explained transitioning the NDP to go negative in 2017, if that is the party’s approach, after being supportive of Mr. Dix’s positive 2013 election campaign.
GEORGE HEYMAN Newly elected MLA for Vancouver-Fairview. Long-time president of the B.C. Government and Service Employees Union. Also executive director of the Sierra Club of B.C.
Argument for: Labour background might give him traction in rallying New Democrats to his leadership. Environmental work could appeal to green-minded voters and also neutralize the Green Party as a force splitting the centre-left vote. Won his nomination in a tough fight against Vancouver city Councillor Geoff Meggs, suggesting he has a knack for tough campaigning. Ditto winning his seat from incumbent Margaret MacDiarmid, the health minister. Practised, sharp communicator, who was seen as a serious contender when the leadership opened with the departure of former NDP leader Carole James.
Argument against: That same labour background could be a point of attack for the Liberals. Ditto his work for the Sierra Club. Not much experience in elected provincial politics.
JUDY DARCY The national president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees from 1991 until 2003. Also secretary-business manager of the Hospital Employees’ Union in B.C. Elected MLA for New Westminister in this week’s provincial election. Point of trivia: Gregor Robertson beat her by 76 votes for the NDP nomination in Vancouver-Fairview, launching his political career.
Argument for: Like Mr. Heyman, Ms. Darcy brings a labour background to the table that could rally the NDP base. Although just elected an MLA, she has political experience after unsuccessful runs to be an MP in the Toronto area, as well as that run against Mr. Robertson.
Argument against: Ms. Darcy’s entire career has been in the labour movement, which the Liberals would use against her. Not much experience in provincial politics.