VICTORIA – New Westminster MLA Dawn Black took over as interim leader of the B.C. NDP Wednesday, as the divided party ran into further turbulence over allegations of improper member sign-ups in the leadership campaign to select a permanent leader.
A veteran of three terms in Ottawa as an NDP MP, Black was the unanimous choice of MLAs who attended Wednesday's caucus meeting, including former NDP leader Carole James.
Black said she has no intention of disciplining any of the 13 MLAs who turned on James and forced her resignation in December, some of whom attended Wednesday's meeting.
"We don't have dissidents now," Black said. "We are united around that caucus table, we're moving forward, we're putting the past behind us."
Black serves as B.C. NDP leader until a province-wide leadership vote is held April 17. Rival candidates Mike Farnworth and Harry Lali lodged formal complaints with the party Monday after Vancouver-Kingsway MLA Adrian Dix's campaign filed his new memberships to meet the eligibility deadline to vote for a new leader.
Lali said the Dix campaign brought in "thousands" of memberships from the Indo-Canadian and Filipino communities, with cash donations brought in separately in bags. Donations were supposed to be attached to each membership to show that people paid their own fees.
James, who took a holiday in Mexico after resigning as leader in early December, said she has no regrets and expects the party to move on united under a new leader.
She said she is looking forward to serving as MLA for Victoria-Beacon Hill until the next election, without the pressure of being the opposition leader.
"I've been incredibly blessed to have a community that has been gracious and has accepted the time I've spent on the road," James said. "This is my chance to be a local MLA."
The NDP also chose new caucus officers, some of whom resigned those positions over the expulsion of Cariboo North MLA Bob Simpson last fall.
Vancouver-Hastings MLA Shane Simpson was elected caucus chair, with Burnaby-Deer Lake MLA as deputy.
Esquimalt-Royal Roads MLA Maurine Karagianis was elected caucus whip, with Burnaby-Edmonds MLA Raj Chouhan as deputy.