Nobody’s going to accuse me of being a provincial NDP supporter. In fact, most people will wrongly accuse me of being a Liberal backer. Truth is, I’m all over the map. Come election time I tend to move past ideology and choose the most worthy — the candidate I can most relate to and who is most approachable.
Basically, it’s the person I’d want to sit down with and have a chat over an ice cold pint. Admittedly throwing beer in the equation may not be the most professional way to cast my ballot, but it’s the most fun.
I wandered into the basement of the Baker Street Inn last Thursday night to take in the NDP leadership debate. I volunteered to shoot photos on my night off because more than anything I’m a fan of the game. I was curious and there’s no better way to satisfy the thirst for knowledge than first-hand experience.
Since I don’t carry an NDP membership card in my wallet, I won’t have any say in who becomes B.C.’s new opposition leader when the faithful cast ballots on April 17. But when we all go to the polls to elect a new provincial government, one of the five men who popped by Nelson will loom large in my decision.
The banquet room was packed last week and the mood upbeat. It’s so much more exciting to attend an NDP gathering than those assembled by the political right. The feeling is so much more evangelical with the NDP as opposed to being mostly eerie when the Liberals gather.
To call the event a “debate” would be a pretty massive stretch. Though not exactly a love-in, the night lacked any real political tension. It was more like a personality contest, a forum to watch these men perform in front of a crowd.
All five proved to be solid speakers. Those who challenge for the leadership of a provincial party in hopes of becoming the premier should be smooth on the microphone and comfortable in the spotlight. All five easily passed that test.
Dana Larsen and Nicholas Simons were the two candidates who I figured would be miles behind the other three. Yet both of these lesser-known hopefuls impressed. That said, it would be the political upset of the new century if either take the crown next month.
This race will come down to Mike Farnworth, Adrian Dix and John Horgan. They are the frontrunners and one of them will lead the NDP into the next election. Looking at all three platforms on their websites, it’s clear they all have the game to launch a spirited fight against Christy Clark’s Liberals.
Farnworth is clearly the statesman of the big three. He has been involved in politics since being elected to Port Coquitlam city council when he was 24. He has been with the NDP through good times and bad, worked overseas and has respect on both sides of the Legislature. His understated style is comforting, yet he’s shown he can fight when it comes time.
Dix is a bulldog. Outwardly targeting the youth vote, if he is elected leader it would certainly create the most drama in a tilt against the Liberals. Like Farnworth, Dix has been with the party for a long time. Unfortunately, one of his big achievements was being former premier Glen Clark’s chief of staff. Though he may be the best politician amongst the three, that doesn’t mean he would be the most likable with undecided voters.
Many of the pundits are predicting Farnworth and Dix to be the last two standing. If that’s the case it’s unfortunate because John Horgan has plenty of game of his own. The Juan de Fuca MLA might not be as well known as the two frontrunners, but he has a solid political resume. More importantly, he comes across as the most likable of the crew. Down to earth and pragmatic, Horgan would make a fine leader. If his style remains true then Horgan might have the ability to earn plenty of converts.
Ever been to a concert where the opening band’s songs are the ones you end up humming on your way to the car? The main act was great, but it was discovering music that you hadn’t heard before that leaves the lasting impression. When I left the Baker Street Inn last week, it was John Horgan who stood out in my mind. Coming into the debate I knew less about him than the other two, yet he left the biggest impression. He’s the guy I’d like to have a Faceplant Winter Ale with and discuss the future of this province.
In the end it’s not up to me and a great many would argue that’s a good thing. In two weeks the NDP will elect one of these five men as its leader. When that happens we will all get a little more familiar with who they are and what they can offer this province.
Good luck to the candidates and to those who will be casting their ballots.
Bob Hall is the editor at the Nelson Star. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org