A notable difference in this duel as to which party can show the least concern about what may be on the electors’ minds is that while Mr Bennett was spurned by fellow legislators of the Liberal caucus, with some grumbling in the ranks it would seem, to date Mr Simpson has been spurned only by leader Ms James, the NDP caucus not being given an opportunity to offer an opinion on the matter let alone a choice.
The latter was an ironic decision and perhaps telling about Ms James’ leadership style; a pretty effective MLA in a swing riding turfed, in Mr James words, for lack of “teamwork” but without consultation with her own NDP team. That more than anything seems to have coalesced negative opinion about Ms James in her caucus, with MLA Robin Austin from neighbouring Skeena providing some brief remarks that echo cryptic signals from other NDP stalwarts, such as Jenny Kwan for instance. Asked whether he supports Ms James, Austin would not state whether he does or not, offering instead “I’m not going to comment on whether there’s a rebellion”; a double entendre I think it’s called.
I don’t think that the governing Liberals are necessarily that badly off if one takes the longer view. Gordo is gone, there is no doubt about that; the only issue is when he vacates the hot seat, turns in the keys to the executive washroom and lets someone else try to rebuild public trust, hopefully with something less gimmicky than a large tax cut, since rescinded.
Take Gordo out of the equation and the Liberals by one account (from Corky Evans if I recall) would be only 5 points down from the NDP in public popularity, although of course we are talking mostly about a race to the bottom in public estimations these days. Love them or hate them, the Liberals may be better positioned to move forward from this state of dysfunctionality. The worst may be mostly over for them.
The more interesting question is what will happen within the NDP in view of Ms James battlecry that she has drawn “a line in the sand”. She is determined, it seems, to go down fighting, but not for the rest of us, or for her party, or even against the governing Liberals, but for herself.
Maybe Ms James will survive the vote at the NDP executive meeting this weekend, but her problems with her own party, which if we think back has a history of contentious, even ugly, leadership changes, do not seem likely to go away anytime soon. The spectacle of the NDP with a leader that has overstayed her welcome in the minds of many could last for a long time to come, well past when the Liberals have someone new in charge and an opportunity to present some fresh ideas, something that has never been Ms James’ strength even in the best of times.