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Mike Farnworth strikes hardline tone for B.C. NDP leadership race

B.C. NDP leadership candidate Mike Farnworth speaks to guests after the NDP leadership debate in Vancouver, March 1, 2011. Mr. Farnworth is making another try for the job, announcing his entry into the race to succeed Adrian Dix, March 1, 2014.

Rafal Gerszak/The Globe and Mail

After spending months getting over the shock of the NDP's stunning loss in the past British Columbia election, veteran MLA Mike Farnworth had to survey colleagues about what direction his future should take.

Now he's decided it lies in leading the provincial party in the next general election with a much tougher approach.

"That means fighting a hard, aggressive election campaign that will get our message across," he said Sunday. "Over the last seven months it's no secret I've been talking with people and calling some friends and family about whether or not to run, and whether I'm the right candidate to run. I came to the decision that yes I am, so I am throwing my hat in the ring."

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Mr. Farnworth, who is currently the NDP finance critic, is the first person to enter the leadership race. He said it wasn't an easy decision coming after his party was left dazed by Christy Clark, who took the Liberals to victory despite starting the campaign 20 points behind in the polls.

"That was a very painful loss back in May of last year. I think all of us were just gutted," said Mr. Farnworth of the lack of energy in the NDP after the election defeat.

He talked to a lot of people before deciding he was the right person to replace outgoing NDP Leader Adrian Dix.

"It's been going on for quite a long time," he said about his period of reflection. "And there's been increasing pressure to make a decision and let my intentions be known. I've had people say 'I want to support you, but I want to know, are you going to be running?' I think now is the right time to say, 'Look, I'm in the race, I'm running to win and I'm running to be the next premier of the province of British Columbia.'"

He said a public event will be held in the near future at which he'll officially launch his campaign.

Although there aren't any other candidates yet, Mr. Farnworth, 54, who has held office since he was first elected to the B.C. legislature in 1991, said he doesn't expect to win by acclamation.

"I fully expect there will be a race. I am under no doubt whatsoever that there will be other candidates," he said. "I've heard a number of names mentioned. I know [NDP House leader] John Horgan is thinking about his decision. I've heard [Vancouver school board chair] Patti Bacchus is thinking about it and I haven't seen any denials on Twitter, which she usually does. So I fully expect there will be other people involved. After all it's not until Sept. 28th, which is still seven months away, which is a very long time."

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Mr. Farnworth said if he does lead the NDP, he won't run the kind of soft campaign that Mr. Dix did, which didn't feature any negative attacks on the Liberals.

"It's about putting forward a positive vision that people will have confidence in," Mr. Farnworth said about his more combative style. "And at the same time, making sure we hold the government record to account and campaign hard on that as well, which is something we didn't do often enough."

Analysts have largely agreed that the wheels fell off the NDP campaign when Mr. Dix unexpectedly took a strong stand opposing Kinder Morgan's proposed pipeline expansion project.

Mr. Farnworth said that needlessly divided NDP supporters, with many turning against the party because they feared a government that wasn't supportive of resource development.

"Resource development has helped build this province in the past, it's building this province today and it's going to be building this province in the future," he said. "So it's a fact of economic and daily life in this province. What we've got to do is bridge the gap between the issue of jobs and the environment. They are not exclusive to one another. They are linked and that's the approach we need to take."

The next B.C. election is scheduled for May, 2017.

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About the Author
National correspondent

Mark Hume is a National Correspondent for The Globe and Mail, based in Vancouver, writing news and feature stories on a daily basis about his home province of British Columbia. His weekly column, which often challenges the orthodoxy on environmental issues, appears every Monday. More

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