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Grassroots should have more sway than pollsters and pundits: Lali

Fraser-Nicola MLA Harry Lali said the British Columbia New Democratic Party needs to listen less to pollsters and pundits, and more to the province's grassroots.

He made the observation while explaining his decision to join the race to replace Carole James as leader of the NDP, which he announced this morning.

“It's my commitment to put people first,” Lali said in a phone interview. “I believe that I can make a difference. I believe British Columbia needs a fresh, new approach.”

In recent years the party has picked positions based on polls, pundits and the preferences of people in Howe Street boardrooms, he said. It needs to get back to representing the province's grassroots, he said.

Lali was among a group of 13 MLAs whose lack of support for James forced her Dec. 6 resignation. He said he didn't believe that history would affect his leadership campaign and that New Democrats will unite behind whoever becomes leader. “Our common foe is the Liberals,” he said. “The past is the past and the future is the future.”

Lali was first elected in 1991 when Mike Harcourt became premier. Lali said he liked Harcourt's collaborative leadership style and that there was room in his government for MLAs to have influence. “I was the person who saved the Stein in its entirety,” Lali said, noting it was on the top of his list when Harcourt asked MLAs what they wanted to do. *

Lali was re-elected in 1995, didn't run in 2001 when the NDP was reduced to two seats in the legislature, then returned to politics with wins in 2005 and 2009.

“As a rural MLA I know how badly rural B.C. has been abandoned in recent years,” said Lali, noting that when the rural economy is strong the province does well. He would do more to make it possible for small businesses to remain competitive in the resource industries, he said. “There should be a natural alliance between small business and working people in this province.”

Lali joins Powell River-Sunshine Coast MLA Nicholas Simons and cannabis activist Dana Larsen in the race to lead the NDP, with more candidates expected to enter soon.

* Typo corrected, Jan. 7.

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

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