B.C. NDP group to launch Forward agenda ahead of November convention

VICTORIA – A grassroots movement from within the ranks of British Columbia’s dejected New Democratic Party is launching a new effort today meant to rebuild the organization and place modern-thinking people in positions of power.

Sage Aaron, a Vancouver communications officer with deep party roots, said Forward BC NDP was formed following an ongoing series of coffee-table meetings after the party’s devastating May election defeat.

The NDP held an almost 20-point lead before the vote but ended up losing its fourth straight election to the B.C. Liberals.

Aaron said Sunday the Forward movement will introduce itself on Facebook and Twitter today. It will not take a position on current NDP Leader Adrian Dix but intends to place its supporters in party executive positions at the upcoming convention in November.

“Specifically, we’re focused on the party, not the leadership,” Aaron said. “The provincial election in May was a pretty brutal and devastating loss for the B.C. NDP. It was also a wake-up call that it’s time for our party to change.”

She said the Forward group wants to rebuild the party infrastructure from its foundation, rather than get into a battle over Dix’s leadership.

“We’re looking at renewing the leadership of the B.C. NDP by involving new voices,” she said.

“What we’re looking at is building a stronger, more united party through renewal and modernization. We want to identify and engage the next tier of voters.”

November’s convention includes an election of a new party executive, and members could support a call for a future leadership contest.

Former North Vancouver councillor and defeated NDP candidate Craig Keating is challenging current party president Moe Sihota for the position at the November convention.

Aaron said the Forward group wants to elect delegates who will attend the convention with voting powers.

Delegate-selection meetings for the convention are currently underway in ridings across B.C.

Shortly after May’s election defeat, Dix announced plans for an election-review panel to examine why the NDP lost, despite its large lead and almost universal media forecasts of victory.

The five-member, labour-dominated panel is slated to provide the results of its widespread consultations at the NDP’s November convention.

When the legislature adjourned in late July, Dix said he would spend the coming months reflecting on his future as NDP leader.

Dix has not made any further statements, and officials in his office say there is nothing to report on the leadership front.

Some New Democrats have publicly said the party needs to change its direction following May’s bitter defeat, while others have said Dix should indicate he is preparing to leave as leader.

Defeated Vancouver NDP candidate Matt Toner has said the party needs to modernize itself, and that involves letting go of the NDP’s left-wing ideological roots and seeking and supporting ideas and political allies that concern voters.

Vancouver consultant Clay Suddaby, a seasoned fixture of the NDP’s backrooms, has also said Dix should be signalling his exit as leader. The party lost its way under Dix, Suddaby said, choosing to suppress the party’s past success out of fear of alienating potentially new voters and thereby rejecting old New Democrats.

Aaron said the Forward group has about 40 members from across the province. She said Forward has contacted current elected B.C. NDP members about its plans, but she did not provide any names.

Aaron is the daughter of veteran Surrey NDP MLA Sue Hammell, who was credited with helping Dix win the support of many Indo-Canadian New Democrats during his leadership victory in April 2011.

Aaron said she’s served previously on the NDP’s provincial executive, worked as a digital media strategist during the NDP’s 2009 election campaign, played a key backroom role in newly elected New Democrat Jane Shin’s, Burnaby-Lougheed win in May, and is connected to the Vision Vancouver team of Mayor Gregor Robertson.