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BC NDP whip's resignation exposes cracks in opposition

New Democratic Party MLA Katrine Conroy resigned today as caucus whip exposing cracks in the opposition party.

“To do this job effectively, I must have the trust, confidence and support of the leader and the caucus,” she said in a prepared statement. “Recent events have led me to conclude that the required support is no longer there.”

Conroy explained the whip is responsible for ensuring caucus discipline and unity.

MLAs Jenny Kwan, Lana Popham and Claire Trevena appeared with Conroy and said they were there to support her. Pressed by reporters, Kwan and Popham declined to express support for James' leadership. Trevena left the room without speaking with reporters.

“Nobody wants difficulties to occur within any caucus,” said Kwan. “The fact is that there are issues which have led to our caucus whip resigning. There are issues that have led to our former caucus chair resigning.”

Standing beside Popham, Kwan said, “We both support their decisions.”

Various MLAs returning to the NDP caucus meeting in the legislature were asked if they supported James' leadership. MLAs John Horgan, Adrian Dix, Michael Sather, Raj Chouhan, Harry Bains, Kathy Corrigan, Rob Fleming, Maurine Karagianis and Shane Simpson said they did. Robin Austin, Guy Gentner and Doug Routley declined to give a position on her leadership.

The move, which will result in a $20,000 a year pay cut for Conroy, comes more than a month after Columbia River-Revelstoke MLA Norm Macdonald resigned on Oct. 15 as caucus chair to protest how NDP leader Carole James booted Cariboo North MLA Bob Simpson from the opposition without consulting her caucus.

An NDP provincial council meeting this weekend will consider motions for and against James' leadership.

“There are some in caucus who are wanting . . . to take apart this party and I'm frustrated with that,” said James. “They would rather stay in opposition than build a coalition, do the outreach that's necessary, do the hard work that's necessary and get on with building an alternative and being government in this province.”

James said she is angry on behalf of the people of British Columbia. “There are people who would rather fight themselves internally and focus on those kind of issues than serve the people in British Columbia.”

She acknowledged that “some” in the caucus don't support her leadership.

Of the NDP's 35 MLAs (including Simpson), at least nine are on record failing to support James and by The Tyee's count at least another five are unlikely to.

James said she expects caucus members to respect whatever the provincial council decides this weekend.

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

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