Skip to main content
updated

After two weeks of bitter, internal strife, peace talks have broken out in an effort to mend the deep rift within the NDP caucus over the continued leadership of Carole James.

The private, closed-door discussions, which have been going on for several days, prompted the party to postpone its much-vaunted, caucus showdown Sunday afternoon between the pro-James forces and 13 rebel New Democratic MLAs determined to unseat her.

It was unclear which side, if any, blinked first and hinted at an openness to compromise.

However, acting caucus chair Kathy Corrigan indicated that Ms. James has no intention of acceding to demands that she step down as head of the party.

"The aim [of these talks] is to unite under Carole's leadership, absolutely … so that we can be a united NDP," Ms. Corrigan said.

"What's at stake here is the next election, to be honest, and what British Columbians think about us and our ability to lead."

The scheduled emergency caucus meeting. which was to have also included key party executives, was put off until further notice, just 90 minutes before it was due to begin.

Ms. Corrigan refused to shed light on who is involved in the reconciliation talks, what is being discussed, and how long they may continue.

"It's fluid right now," she said. "We don't know when the next caucus meeting will be. In order to protect the integrity of the process, I really can't say anything about the nature of these discussions."

But the fact that the warring factions were talking at all was positive, according to Ms. Corrigan.

"Any time people are having discussions with a view to uniting the party, I think that can be viewed as a good thing."

A party insider, who declined to be identified, was even more upbeat.

"I'm optimistic a resolution will be found," the source said.

The unusual caucus get-together was called last week, after veteran New Democratic MLA Jenny Kwan issued a blistering critique of Ms. James's leadership and demanded a one member-one vote contest to replace her.

A spokesman for Ms. Kwan said she would not be speaking to the media on Sunday. In the meantime, she and 12 other NDP MLA's who agree with her remain members of the party's divided caucus.

The so-called Baker's Dozen of dissidents had vowed to all leave if Ms. Kwan or any of them were ejected from caucus because of their critical views.

Some within the party have called the current leadership crisis a threat to the NDP's very existence. Arrayed against the Baker's Dozen is a majority of caucus who continue to be in Ms. James's corner, and a large section of the party's provincial council, which voted 84 per cent two weeks ago against having a leadership race.

Ms. Corrigan said the split is certainly jeopardizing the party's prospects in the next election.

"It's very unfortunate … that a group of people decided they can't support Carole, whom I think is a wonderful leader."