As one of the key players in the break-away group of 13 NDP caucus members that have been calling for Carole James resignation as party Leader, Kootenay West MLA Katrine Conroy is looking forward to the opportunity to begin rebuilding the troubled party now that James has stepped down.
Katrine Conroy surprised by timing of James decision
Placing one of the single biggest chinks in James' leadership, Conroy resigned her position as Caucus Whip acknowledging that she “no longer had the support of her leader or the NDP caucus.” With the responsibility for maintaining caucus discipline in her position as whip, Conroy was not pleased with the situation.
MLA Jenny Kwan, who delivered what amounted the fatal blow for James in a verbal undressing of the leader earlier last week, was one of three NDP party members standing behind Conroy during her announcement.
Although she played a significant role among the so named “baker's dozen” of dissidents within the party calling for James’ resignation, Conroy admitted this week in an Interview with the Telegraph that she "was surprised at the timing but not surprised by the news.”
Just over two weeks ago on November 20, delegates at the party's provincial council meeting rejected a plan to hold a leadership convention next year by a count of 97 to 18. James herself as recently as last week noted that she would not be stepping down as leader.
Last minute attempts by the two sides in a showdown meeting between the two sides to heal party rifts in the interest of the party were called off by James at the last minute. When asked if there was already an inkling at that stage that cancelled meeting was because a James’ resignation was imminent, Conroy answered frankly “No,” adding, “Over the weekend there was a serious attempt to heal the rift in caucus. People were working on an agreement to make sure that we could all work together again. We had come to an agreement and were working to resolve the issue and things were working well.”
Having in part been disturbed by the lack of following party protocol and maintaining confidentiality within the caucus before resigning from her position as whip, Conroy practiced what she preached and would not disclose the possible concessions and deals to heal wounds in the party over the weekend.
“I’m, going to maintain caucus confidentiality, so I can’t disclose what took place within the caucus,” said Conroy. “To just give you a brief summary, though, it was things to help us work together to make sure we all had a unified goal of defeating the Liberals and maintaining caucus confidentiality.”
Moving forward, Conroy is looking forward to the rebuilding of the parties internal relations as well as reinvigorating the party's relationship with the people of the province. Conroy also thanked James for her decade of service to the party noting that political life is anything but easy and forgiving.
“I see it as an opportunity and that’s how I’m looking at it. I do want to thank Carole for her ten years of service as the leader of the party and the official opposition leader. Invariably people comment on politicians all the time, but it’s really not an easy life so I wanted to thank her and her family for her commitment because it takes its toll on yourself and your family, but we do it because we choose to. I do think this is an opportunity for the party to move forward and really think we need to focus on democratic renewal in the party. Here’s the opportunity and now is the time to do it.”
When asked if she is considering a big for the party leadership herself she left the possibility open stating, “Not at this time. Right now my focus is on uniting the party and uniting the caucus. We need to come together as a team to get our policies out and figure out the things the people n the province want to hear. We need to ensure that we win the next election and that the people in this province get their voices back.”
Before looking ahead to the nominating of an interim leader (expected to take place early in the new year) and the eventual leadership campaign, Conroy is focusing on getting back to basics and lending her experience to help bring the party back together as a party with common goals admitting that will take some time and effort.
“Right now my role with the party is to make sure that we unify together as a caucus and that we work together with party members. I’m definitely not naïve enough to think there aren’t still concerns on both sides of our party and that we need to work together to make sure that everybody’s positions are understood and respected. When that is done, then we can start to move forward.”
While being careful not to endorse any particular potential candidate for leadership at this stage, Conroy is hopeful that whoever takes the reins will provide a strong voice on issues that matter to BC residents and bring enthusiasm and engagement back to politics in this province.
“We need someone who can not only unite the party and the caucus and show those types of leadership abilities but also excite the province and ensure that the people know this is the person whose voice will carry forward their issues. We’ve seen so much lost in this province under the ten year reign of the BC Liberals and I think people are frustrated and tired of the way that they treat politics. I really think we have a chance and an opportunity now to move forward not only as a party but as a voice for people in the province of BC.”
The NDP caucus will reconvene early in the new year to put an interim leader in place. At that time they will begin working on the process and timing of a leadership convention to elect a new party leader.
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