November 17, 2013 - 4:26 PM
VANCOUVER - British Columbia's New Democrats have elected a Vancouver-area city councillor as party president, six months after a devastating election loss that has forced the NDP to ask tough questions about its campaign strategy, its leadership and its future.
Craig Keating was elected Sunday on the final day of the Opposition party's weekend convention in Vancouver, where members continued to dissect what went wrong in the May election, when the New Democrats lost despite an apparent 20-point lead in the polls, while they map a way forward.
The failed campaign prompted party Leader Adrian Dix to announce his resignation, though he will stay on in the position until a successor is chosen.
Keating, a five-time city councillor from North Vancouver, was elected to replace outgoing president and former cabinet minister Moe Sihota, who didn't seek re-election after his term as president was finished.
"Top of mind for B.C. New Democrats right now is renewal," Keating said in a statement.
"I look forward to working to bring people together in that process while at the same time helping the party organization reach its overarching strategic goals."
Keating, who was first elected to North Vancouver's council in 1999, was one of many NDP candidates who went into the spring election campaign staring ahead at potential victory only to suffer an unexpected defeat. He lost in his riding of North Vancouver-Lonsdale to the incumbent, Liberal Naomi Yamamoto.
The NDP started the campaign with a 20-point lead in opinion polls, with some pundits — and indeed, the party's own leadership — convinced a New Democrat victory was all but certain.
In the end, the NDP was worse off than when the writ was dropped, losing a seat in the provincial legislature.
In September, Dix announced plans to step down and the party appointed a committee to figure out how things went so terribly wrong.
The committee released its report earlier this month, echoing what had become conventional wisdom in the province's political circles. The NDP lost, the report said, because of a "perfect storm" of missteps, including a positive campaign that left the party unable to effective counter attacks from the Liberals, the lack of a clear and concise message in the party's platform, and too much reliance on opinion polls.
Notably, the report suggested the party's place on the political spectrum wasn't to blame.
Dix has also singled out two mistakes during the campaign: an announcement to scrap an education grant program to fund anti-poverty initiatives and a mid-campaign policy announcement opposing a proposed pipeline expansion by Kinder Morgan. Both were poorly communicated, the report said.
The party's provincial council planned to meet later on Sunday to debate a possible date for a leadership vote to replace Dix, though it wasn't clear whether they would announce a specific date by the end of the convention.
No candidates have officially declared themselves in the running, though NDP finance critic Mike Farnworth has expressed interest. Federal New Democrat MP Nathan Cullen has already announced he will not be in the race.
News from © The Canadian Press, 2013