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NDP leader James acted unilaterally to oust Simpson: Macdonald

It would be hypocritical to complain about the unilateralism exercised by Premier Gordon Campbell while participating in the same kind of thing in his own party, said Columbia River-Revelstoke MLA Norm Macdonald.

Macdonald stepped down as the New Democratic Party's caucus chair last week. While NDP leader Carole James said Macdonald resigned because he disagreed with the discipline given to Cariboo North MLA Bob Simpson, Macdonald said he didn't like the way the decision was made.

“It's the unilateralism and the lack of due process,” he said. There is a process for disciplining MLAs that has been followed in the past but was ignored this time, he said. “It's not a principle if it's only applied when it's convenient.”

Macdonald will lose about $20,000 a year in extra pay on top of his base MLA pay because of the resignation, former MLA David Schreck pointed out in an interview Friday.

As chair, Macdonald said, it was his job to make sure the proper process is followed.

Macdonald said he was preparing to speak to a school group today and has to answer in his community for how he does his job. “What I tell them has to mesh with how I conduct myself.”

His resignation is not about challenging James' leadership, he said. “Carole is the leader and I was elected as an NDPer.” He will remain part of the caucus.

Following is a complete statement Macdonald released Sunday evening:

On Friday, October 15th I announced that I had resigned as caucus chair.

The role of caucus chair is to ensure that caucus affairs are managed in a principled way, following a proper process.

I have fundamental differences with the Leader on what the role of caucus should be. I believe that caucus members must be part of the decision-making process. All MLAs were elected to actively participate in the Legislature and within their caucus. Removing MLAs from decision-making is not something I can support.

The decision to remove a member from caucus should not be made unilaterally by the Leader. The Leader has a responsibility to first consult with caucus and that did not happen in this case.

It has been stated that I am resigning because I disagree with the level of punishment received by my former colleague. This is not accurate. I am resigning because caucus was not consulted, and I believe that goes against the principle of due process. Ensuring that people are treated fairly is a core New Democratic value.

The decision to resign was not an easy decision to make, but it was my only option. I have to stand up for what I know is right.

When I was elected in 2005 and 2009, I made a promise to my constituents. During the election I spoke about my commitment to democracy. While knocking on doors, voters told me that they want a representative who would work hard to make our democratic system work better.

My responsibility is to the people who elected me. They expect me to live up to the principles that I have espoused even when it is uncomfortable and inconvenient to do so.

While I will no longer be a member of the caucus executive, I will continue to be an active member of my caucus and a strong critic of this government.

Norm Macdonald MLA, Columbia River - Revelstoke

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

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