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NDP dealing with call to discipline dissidents

NDP MLA Jenny Kwan and NDP leader Carole James before outlining the party's economic vision to Vancouver Board of Trade in Vancouver April 12, 2005.

John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail/John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail

The B.C. NDP has been dealing with a high-level call to discipline the 13 MLAs who forced Carole James to resign as party leader, despite public statements that the divisions created by her ouster have been bridged.

The party's provincial secretary, Jan O'Brien, has said she isn't aware of the status of that call, saying president Moe Sihota is handling it. Mr. Sihota has refused to comment on the matter. But party sources say they're not aware of it officially being disposed of.

Now Communications Group Inc. founding partner and strategic adviser Ron Johnson, whose firm does much of the NDP's advertising, made the call in mid-December.

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Mr. Johnson, who is in Europe, did not respond to repeated requests to comment on his call - which was sent to Mr. Sihota and Ms. O'Brien shortly after Ms. James's resignation.

The letter stressed the importance of justice being done and being seen to be done, advising the party to censure the dissidents. It also advised the party to warn the Baker's Dozen that further disloyalty would result in their suspension from the NDP, suggesting at one point that such behaviour could also result in them not being candidates in the next election.

Ms. O'Brien said she couldn't comment on the status of Mr. Johnson's letter. "I'm not handling that so I can't give you an update on that," she said. "It's being handled by Moe Sihota."

Mr. Sihota wouldn't say whether the issue had been resolved, stating the party constitution requires him to deal "confidentially" with any matters that come to his attention.

However, he did say, "the general policy is try to resolve matters amicably and that has happened in every case I've had to deal with." He also stated that the party "has moved past any issues that were divisive last winter," adding he looks forward to Jenny Kwan, one of the most outspoken dissidents, "being part of our team and part of our government caucus."

B.C. NDP Leader Adrian Dix said he had "no idea" about the status of the issue, noting "those matters are being dealt with by the party." He said he hadn't even seen Mr. Johnson's letter, which also suggested the party ask Ms. James to reconsider her resignation.

As for whether he thought the dissidents should be censured, Mr. Dix said, "Every member of my caucus has an important critic area. Every member of my caucus is an important part of my team. Everyone has been participating in Question Period."

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He added: "I don't think the party has been any more unified than we are now coming out of a leadership campaign."

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