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B.C. NDPers lament pipeline debate at No Enbridge protest

People gather during a demonstration against the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline in Vancouver, B.C., on Saturday November 16, 2013.

DARRYL DYCK/THE CANADIAN PRESS

While B.C. New Democrats debated policy on Saturday afternoon in a Vancouver convention hall, a small group of MLAs and MPs exited the party's convention to join a bigger happening: The No Enbridge pipeline protest.

How the B.C. NDP mishandled the pipeline debate during the last election has been a key undercurrent of the convention. Party leader Adrian Dix's surprise condemnation of the Kinder Morgan oil pipeline proposal has been identified as a turning point in the campaign that ended in the party's fourth consecutive loss.

NDP MLAs Spencer Chandra-Herbert, Jennifer Rice and Robin Austin were not going rogue by leaving to join the rally, but increasingly, party activists complain the pipeline policy should have been framed by a job creation platform.

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Mr. Dix conceded the manner in which he communicated his policy on Kinder Morgan was a significant mistake that benefited the B.C Liberals.

"It certainly gave some momentum to the Liberal campaign. That's self-evident," Mr. Dix told reporters following his speech to delegates.

Mr. Dix suggested his Kinder-Morgan policy declaration was at odds with his otherwise thorough approach of preparing the ground for issues.

Tzeporah Berman was one of the environmental activists who publicly applauded Mr. Dix's surprise announcement on Kinder Morgan in the middle of the election campaign.

Now, as the party wrestles with how it lost an election that it expected to win, Ms. Berman said she doesn't believe most B.C. voters were actually voting for oil pipelines when they rejected the NDP.

Ms. Berman, speaking in an interview at Vancouver's No Enbridge rally, said Mr. Dix delivered the pipeline message badly.

"People were nervous about the way it was rolled out," she said. "In the future, the B.C. NDP need to clearly articulate the kind of economy they want to create – about what the party is saying 'yes' to."

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Delegates unanimously approved a resolution that calls for "credible, significant work to determine how our economic platform and message was received, and why it failed to resonate with our potential voters, especially as it relates to jobs and the economy."

CUPE B.C. delegate Paul Faoro, who is running for the party's vice-president, spoke in favour of the resolution, saying the NDP "failed miserably" to present a credible jobs agenda.

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About the Authors
B.C. politics reporter

Based in the press gallery of the B.C. Legislature in Victoria, Justine has followed the ups and downs of B.C. premiers since 1988. She has also worked as a business reporter and on Parliament Hill covering national politics. More

B.C. reporter

Ian Bailey is a Vancouver-based reporter for The Globe and Mail.  He covers politics and general news. Prior to arriving at The Globe and Mail, he reported from Toronto and St. John’s for The Canadian Press.  He has also covered British Columbia for CP, The National Post and The Province. More

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