With more and more of her Liberal rivals announcing they want to succeed Gordon Campbell as premier, New Democratic Leader Carole James made a stump speech of her own and said election season is well under way, even if the next provincial vote isn't scheduled until 2013.
Ms. James, who has led the NDP to defeat in the past two campaigns, laid out her party's platform on Tuesday for a crowd of hundreds at a labour convention in downtown Vancouver.
Although there were few surprises, and details were light, Ms. James was treated to several standing ovations as she talked about increasing the minimum wage, improving health care and moving up a referendum on the harmonized sales tax.
Her address came one hour after former health minister Kevin Falcon said he will run for the Liberal leadership, joining fellow former cabinet ministers George Abbott and Moira Stilwell. Attorney-General Mike de Jong is expected to announce his intentions on Wednesday.
Ms. James said it's clear the election campaign is in full swing for both sides.
"We're really in campaign mode," she said. "As people heard, we're coming out with our kind of vision, the direction we believe British Columbians are looking for."
Ms. James - who has faced criticism over her leadership in recent weeks, even from those within her party - said it's been a "challenging" time. But she added her "resolve is stronger than ever" after she won the backing last week of 84 per cent of the NDP's provincial council.
Though she was at times critical of the Liberal government that's run B.C. since 2001, Ms. James chose to focus most of her speech on what she would do as leader.
"Just criticizing the Liberals isn't enough," she told B.C. Federation of Labour delegates, who were joined in attendance by NDP health critic Adrian Dix and Spencer Chandra Herbert, critic for tourism, culture and the arts.
Ms. James said she looks forward to being premier and signing a minimum-wage increase into law.
She also renewed her calls for a public inquiry into the controversial sale of BC Rail, urged support for more green jobs, and said she'll lower interest rates on student loans.
"I [also]look forward to the day when, as premier, I stand in the legislature and present British Columbians with an action plan to reduce and finally eliminate child poverty," Ms. James said, although she didn't provide details on what that plan would consist of and how it would be funded.
After her speech, Ms. James was presented with a paddle by Jim Sinclair, the labour federation's president. Mr. Sinclair said the paddle represented moving forward and changing the province for the better.
Ms. James said a third election defeat is not something she foresees.
"Sitting in opposition again is not a choice that I'm willing to accept," she said.Report Typo/Error