A new president, an upcoming leadership race, and the biggest BC NDP convention ever held — though his party is publicly recovering from its surprise loss in May’s provincial election earlier this year, Columbia River-Revelstoke MLA Norm Macdonald believes the NDP message of renewal will succeed only through improved communication.
“The NDP needs to be able to express its values and its principles in a more straightforward and clear way,” he said. Mr. Macdonald spoke with The Valley Echo on Friday, November 22nd following the BC NDP convention in Vancouver on Sunday, November 17th. “The message centrally over the last number of campaigns I’ve found fairly muddled and not nearly as clear as it needs to be.”
A four percent difference in the popular vote between the BC Liberals and NDP proves the NDP platform is a “fairly consistent brand,” but “there are clearly things that have to be done better.”
Emerging from the convention was the claim that the NDP’s positive campaign contributed to its demise, to which Mr. Macdonald responded cautiously.
“We do need to watch the type of campaigns that take place; if we drift into an American-style of simply attacking people personally, you devalue the discussion that a province needs to have on really key issues,” he said. “This past election I don’t think the debate was very sophisticated.”
However, Mr. Macdonald did say the NDP didn’t capitalize on what he refers to as the BC Liberal’s poor governance leading up to the election, of which there were ample examples, he added.
“The way the campaign was run was completely unsuccessful,” Mr. Macdonald said. “I don’t think we laid out the facts in a way that showed passion or fight.”
Though he doesn’t know the party’s new president personally, having met him on just a few occasions, he appreciates five-term North Vancouver city councillor Craig Keating’s drive to make the NDP as democratic as possible.
“Keating is talking about making sure democratic structures of the party are working properly, which is really key when you are telling the public that democratic structures in government will be improved,” said Mr. Macdonald. “We really have to have that in place.”
But it will be the role of a new leader to speak for the NDP and effectively deliver the message of what the party is fighting for, he said.
With a leadership contest set for September 2014, several names of possible candidates were batted around at the convention, including that of David Eby, the well-known Vancouver lawyer in his 30s who ousted Premier Christy Clark from her seat in the legislature in May.
“He is expected to put his name forward,” said Mr. Macdonald. “Mike Farnworth, who is a long-serving MLA, who finished second to Adrian Dix last time, is expected to step forward as well.”
And although there wasn’t a female candidate in the last leadership contest, this is likely to change, he said.
“Judy Darcy is a new MLA, but she has a lot of experience in the labour community, so I think she may be a candidate,” he speculated.
Though it followed on the heels of a disappointing election loss, Mr. Macdonald felt the the NDP convention was an “upbeat gathering” with a strong focus on moving forward.
“Collectively when you get these (NDP delegates) together, you realize it’s a collection of people with many, many different issues, labour, environmental, social,” Mr. Macdonald said. “But what is common is people wanting to use the NDP as part of the political process to empower those who are up against really strong and entrenched interests.
“How you keep a coalition of those interests together and how you put in place processes that are not too unwieldy, yet that authentically engage the broader public is a challenge, especially when you are up against the BC Liberals who are so focused doing anything to win.”