Skip to main content

B.C. NDP leader Adrian Dix at Fable restaurant in Vancouver on April 1, 2014, where he answered questions on former NDP leader Mike Harcourt leaving the party.

John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail

New Democrats are largely taking former premier Mike Harcourt's decision to quit the provincial party as an urgent signal that they have to act on his parting suggestions that the NDP bridge rural and urban B.C. and do better to win government.

Earlier this week, Mr. Harcourt said he was done with the party he led to power in 1991, citing concerns that included an "astonishingly stupid decision" by leader Adrian Dix during the 2013 election campaign to reverse position on expanding a Kinder-Morgan pipeline between Alberta and the Lower Mainland.

Mr. Dix went into the campaign with a neutral position, then declared opposition to the project, a shift Mr. Harcourt said cost the NDP seats in rural communities, where blue-collar workers concluded the party opposed resource development that creates jobs.

Story continues below advertisement

"Mr. Harcourt is leaving the party over support for a pipeline, an oil pipeline," Mr. Dix told reporters in Vancouver on Tuesday amid astonished reaction to the decision the former premier announced in an interview with The Globe and Mail.

"I guess that's his choice. It's absolutely fair for him to do that if he wants to."

He suggested Mr. Harcourt supported his view during the campaign. Mr. Harcourt rebuffed the jab in an interview on Tuesday, noting he had spoken "during the heat of a campaign" and that he supported the process for reviewing Kinder-Morgan's plans.

But Mr. Dix added Mr. Harcourt served B.C. in three terms as Vancouver mayor and five years as premier, and he hoped he would return to the NDP.

Other New Democrats were more in sync with the view that the party needs to take up Mr. Harcourt's challenge.

"His views are really echoing what a lot of us in the B.C. Interior are saying about what went wrong in the 2013 campaign," said Tom Friedman, who ran unsuccessfully in 2009 and 2013 in Kamloops.

Mr. Dix made his Kinder-Morgan campaign announcement in the Interior city about 325 kilometres east of Vancouver.

Story continues below advertisement

Mr. Friedman said the issue was larger than the Kinder-Morgan reversal, and had a lot to do with the NDP failure to articulate a policy on responsible development. He said the party platform was not effectively sold to regional audiences.

"There's a collective responsibility. I am not laying this entirely at Mr. Dix's feet."

Mr. Friedman said he was sad to see Mr. Harcourt go.

"Mike Harcourt has been seen as a very strong, moderate individual," he said.

"It's a loss to the party because I think we should be paying attention to people like Mike Harcourt. He seemed to have a vision that did include the whole province, even though he came from Vancouver."

Mr. Friedman, an English professor at Thompson Rivers University, said MLAs John Horgan and Mike Farnworth, the only candidates so far to succeed Mr. Dix, should aspire to build a party that welcomes people like Mr. Harcourt.

Story continues below advertisement

The leadership vote is on Sept. 28.

Mr. Horgan said in an interview that "the reverberations" of Mr. Harcourt's comments are being felt across B.C., adding "the caucus is concerned, as you would expect."

In his exit interview, Mr. Harcourt did not endorse Mr. Horgan, but described him as a "very capable guy" based on work for the NDP government of the 1990s – praise Mr. Horgan welcomed.

"I think this is just the sort of challenge that the party needs and to have someone of Mike's stature lay it out so clearly strikes me as a good thing," he said.

Mr. Horgan, who has the support of 15 of 34 NDP MLAs, said New Democrats remain in shock over the 2013 election, which the New Democrats were expected to win due to massive polling leads. The Liberals won a fourth straight majority mandate under Christy Clark.

Mr. Farnworth, a former NDP cabinet minister, said in an interview that it was clear New Democrats will continue to lose elections without an economic message that all voters can trust.

Story continues below advertisement

Party president Craig Keating called Mr. Harcourt's announcement an "unfortunate development" balanced by the good news of 800 people joining the party in the past 60 days. The BC NDP has 20,000 to 21,000 members, he said.

Mr. Keating said he is "determined" to bring Mr. Harcourt home to the NDP – although he conceded he had not called him on Tuesday. "He was a great NDP premier of the province – someone we need to reach out to."

With a report from Mark Hume in Vancouver

Follow me on Twitter: @ianabailey

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Cannabis pro newsletter