Rob Shaw / Times Colonist
November 23, 2013 10:29 PM
Newly appointed President of the BC NDP party Craig Keating addresses a crowd at the British Columbia NDP Convention in Vancouver, B.C. Sunday, Nov.17, 2013. Photograph by: JONATHAN HAYWARD, The Canadian Press
The B.C. NDP’s new president admits he’s facing a daunting task in regrouping his party after a devastating loss in the May provincial election.
Craig Keating, a North Vancouver councillor who was elected president at the party’s convention last weekend, said he’s got a clear mandate from New Democrats to modernize party organization and reach out to ridings where the NDP didn’t win to help craft a strategy for success in 2017.
“I’d be lying if I didn’t think it was daunting,” Keating said in an interview. “It’s not because the party is in disorder. There’s no doubt about it, we lost the election and we have debt to deal with, but there’s lots of positives. We have identified tons of supporters, we identified lots of volunteers … but nonetheless, the project here is: How do we win? And that’s my focus.”
Keating took over the presidency from Moe Sihota, the former NDP cabinet minister and Victoria-area MLA.
One of Keating’s first challenges will be to set up the leadership race to replace Adrian Dix, who announced his intention to resign after the NDP blew a perceived lead in the election and lost to Christy Clark’s B.C. Liberals.
The NDP’s provincial council has set the vote for fall 2014, and Keating said the NDP needs to find a facility, set entry fees and finalize race rules. “People aren’t going to get into the race until they know what the rules are,” he said.
The NDP still has $1.7 million in debt left from its election campaign, and Keating said he will need to creatively tackle fundraising to retire the loans and begin building a new war chest.
The party also needs to modernize the computer system it uses to contact voters, and keep organizers active in ridings where it lacks MLAs but thinks it can win, he said. The NDP must “build up a stock of goodwill” among volunteers and party members who have expressed unhappiness at how their involvement has been reduced to cutting donation cheques, he said.
“We need to start getting in touch with some people in communities across this province where we’re not elected, and start talking about what their realities are and how do we get a vision that’s going to get people out of their seats and voting for us in the next election,” he said.
There’s also the matter of messy internal grudges.
Documents at the NDP convention revealed the party still has four outstanding formal complaints against MLAs who helped overthrow former leader Carole James. An oversight committee recommended Keating deal with the situation quickly.
However, Keating said he has other priorities. “The file, in a literal sense, has not been handed to me,” he said. “It’s not on my immediate radar screen.”
There’s also a push to take a recent report into how the NDP blew the election and turn it into some sort of concrete action, Keating said.
“I encourage people to continue to reflect on what went wrong, but in the way of constructive criticism of what we do next,” he said.
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