Vancouver Island left off NDP review panel

Party president Moe Sihota says committee must ask "tough questions"

Despite having deep roots and a historically strong electoral showing in this region, the B.C. NDP left Vancouver Islanders off a panel appointed to analyze its disappointing loss in the May 14 provincial election.

Party president Moe Sihota, the former NDP cabinet minister who represented Esquimalt-Port Renfrew (later Esquimalt-Metchosin) in the legislature for upwards of 15 years, said, however, geographical representation was not among the criteria used to select the five panelists.

“We tried to select the panel based on a range of skills and experiences,” he said.

Gender and ethnic representation were also factors, he added, as were “independence of mind,” and level of success in life.

The panel, which includes former Manitoba NDP cabinet minister Eugene Kostyra and Newton-North Delta MP Jinny Sims, will receive input from people around the province, with a final report due to the party executive in time for this fall’s party convention.

The panel is charged with asking “tough questions” about the party and its approach to B.C. politics.

“We’re trying to see where we are successful and why, and where we are not successful and why,” Sihota said.

“In particular, I think our weakness really lies in the public’s perception of our capacity to manage the economy for the province. That seems to be less of a variable on the Island than elsewhere.”

He expects the panel to “look very much at the DNA of the NDP.”

When the NDP won elections, in 1991 and 1996, its victories were largely due to a split of the right-wing vote, Sihota said.

Since suffering near annihilation in 2001 then re-establishing itself under Victoria’s Carole James, NDP leader between 2003 and 2010, the party has struggled to find the formula to overtake the B.C. Liberals.

Over the years, Sihota said, the party has experienced tension between those who view the party as a political movement for change and those who measure success by electoral victories, which come with the ability to create change through legislation.

This year’s shocking election loss followed months of public opinion polls showing the NDP well ahead of the Liberals.

What that demonstrated, Sihota said, is that “substantial changes are required, particularly as it relates to our brand and the way our brand is perceived and marketed.”

ddescoteau@vicnews.com

NDP future finders?

On Thursday the B.C. NDP appointed a five-member panel to review the party’s election night collapse May 14. Its findings will be compiled in a report due to the party executive by the party convention in November.

The panelists are:

• Former Manitoba NDP cabinet minister Eugene Kostyra, a special advisor to Premier Gary Doer

• Cindy Oliver, president of the Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of B.C.

• Andy Ross, former president of Canadian Office and Professional Employees Union Local 378

• Pam Sihota, a law student from Terrace

• Jinny Sims, NDP Member of Parliament for Newton-North Delta

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