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The NDP Biennial Convention Came and Went, Did Anyone Notice?

 Photo of Carole James by Stacey Robinsmith

The New Democrat’s biennial convention has come and gone. Being a political junkie, I was drawn to the convention like a moth is drawn to the brightly burning flame. And like the moth drawn to the flame, I can’t say I got much out of the event. Sure there were policy debates and resolutions were put forward, debated and carried, but there really was no great drama, nothing that had me racing for the keyboard to tweet or pound the keyboard to break a story.

I suppose my childhood is partly to blame for this. While other kids in our neighbourhood would be outside playing I sat on the chesterfield with my mother and watched the great federal Liberal leadership convention of 1968. That’s the one when Trudeau finally won on the fourth ballot with a 51% majority. And years later I remember watching the drama of the Progressive Conservative leadership convention of 1983. Seeing Brian Mulroney defeat Joe Clark on the fourth ballot, or even the provincial Social Credit party when Bill Vander Zalm took the helm of that party, these events have spoiled me for conventions.

However, bearing that in mind, I attended the provincial NDP convention, knowing full well that this was not going to be a leadership convention nor would there even be a leadership review.

I asked Jenny Kwan if there was a need for a leadership review. I asked Adrian Dix and Bruce Ralston, I even asked Harry Bains. Apparently everyone in the party is singing from the same song sheet:

“Carole is a great leader and will be the next Premier of BC.”

In the scrum outside the convention floor Carole James was asked about the need for a leadership review. Even James knew the words by rote. She told us that the fact that there is not a leadership review at this convention is the result of an administrative oversight from when the party changed to a one-member, one-vote process. She spoke in favour of the administrative change so that starting with the next convention; each convention will include a leadership review. Of course that does not come around for another two years.

So in search of drama I left the convention on Saturday night and attended the opening night of Vancouver Opera’s performance of Norma. Absolutely gorgeous singing filled Queen Elizabeth Theatre on this the Golden Anniversary season of the Vancouver Opera. Definitely more drama at the opera than at the NDP convention.

Sunday morning back to the convention in time to hear Moe Sihota has been elected as party president. Carole James said that she is excited to have Moe as the party president; he brings his desire to win and his amazing organization building skills to the party. She said that the Liberals should be concerned about Moe Sihota being back in the NDP fold.

However, the Liberals only said that Moe Sihota’s election is simply, “Moe of the same.” Clever.

And then there was another realization; she said “the Liberals.” It wasn’t the usual “Gordon Campbell and the Liberals…” When questioned about this she admitted that the NDP did not do a good enough job of getting their positive message out to the people of BC in the last election.

Which ties in with the fact that Rahaf Harfoush was one of the keynote speakers. Harfoush was the social media wizard who helped President Obama take the Whitehouse. She was at the convention to show the delegates and party members how to use online technologies to “out-think and out-distance the competition.” Or in other words, how to get the positive message out to the people of BC. This should be interesting when most of the delegates at the convention looked like they probably have never heard of Twitter, Facebook or Social Media. However, that is just conjecture on my part, for all I know the entire audience could have been tweeting the drama of the entire convention without me knowing anything about it.

And that ties in with one more observation that could be an indicator of a tide change inside the NDP. There were people with hair colours other than grey, white or old-lady blue. In fact, it appeared that there actually might be delegates at the convention who were born after the party founder, Tommy Douglas had already died.

Carole James now has two years to get her party organized and election ready. The question people will be wondering; will she be able to take advantage of the current 10-13% lead the pollsters give the NDP over the BC Liberals?

It will be interesting to watch and see if she can bury, and keep the Liberals buried, in the months and years leading up to the next NDP convention and leadership review.

If she cannot, watch the knives come out for her. We will keep watching, after all, that's what a political junkie does. Like moths to the burning flame, politics attracts us.

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