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NDP campaign lacked vision, focus: James

New Democratic Party leader Carole James said she will lead her party into the 2013 election and the NDP needs to do a better job offering a positive vision for the province.

“I'm looking forward to the campaign already,” she said, speaking on the phone a week after losing the provincial election to Premier Gordon Campbell's B.C. Liberal Party. “We'll start the outreach now.”

James said she took the last week to talk with family, friends, party members and people in her caucus. She took time to go hiking and reflected on the election and the next four years, she said.

“The thing we could have done better, and should have done better, was getting our positive vision out there,” she said. “The negative messaging that came before the campaign, and in the first week of the campaign, from all sides, that really took over.”

The NDP campaign needed more focus and avoided too many key issues, she said. Even as it was revealed during the campaign that the province is in its first recession since 1982, the party failed to speak about the economy in a way that connected with voters, she said.

“We didn't articulate in the way we should have a clear economic vision for British Columbia,” she said. “We needed to do a better job showing people we had a strong, balanced approach.”

James said she still believes the carbon tax is unfair and ineffective. While the party received negative media coverage for its position and condemnation from some environmentalists, she said she did not believe it changed the outcome of the election. The tax is an example of an area where the party failed to get its environmental ideas such as the green bond out, she said. “The opposition message got out but the positive alternative wasn't heard.”

The way forward includes reaching out to the 52 percent of eligible voters who stayed away from the polls, James said. “You need to do the building and the work of that positive vision before the campaign starts,” she said. “When people don't feel it's worth their while to come out and vote, that's not good for any of us in the province.”

The NDP will be returning with a strong team of MLAs with experience in opposition, as well as some new MLAs with fresh energy and passion, she said. “We've got a team that will hit the ground running that knows how to be an effective opposition.”

Preliminary results gave the Liberals 49 seats to the NDP's 36, with at least two recounts expected before a final tally is reached.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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