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Vancouver education official mulling bid for NDP leadership

Vancouver Board of Education Chairperson Patti Bacchus speaks at a press conference in June, 2010. She is contemplating a run for the provincial NDP leadership.

Brett Beadle/The Globe and Mail

The high-profile chair of the Vancouver Board of Education isn't ruling out a bid for the leadership of the B.C. NDP, but says she would prefer to talk someone else into running and bringing fresh ideas to the race.

"The door is close to being closed, but I've promised a few people I'll keep it as an option until some of these other conversations proceed," Patti Bacchus said in an interview on Monday.

The native of Vancouver, first elected to the school board in 2008 then chair in 2009, said supporters have suggested she has a visibility in the community, and has taken stands on education issues that might facilitate a leadership bid.

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"I haven't completely ruled it out."

Over the weekend, former NDP cabinet minister Mike Farnworth became the first candidate to officially enter the race launched when Adrian Dix announced last September that he would step down as leader once the party picked a successor.

Mr. Dix's planned exit came after the NDP lost the provincial election in May, 2013, despite going to the race with strong polling leads over the Liberals, who nonetheless went on to win a fourth straight majority.

Some MLAs and B.C. MPs have considered leadership bids, but largely ruled them out.

Ms. Bacchus said she respects Mr. Farnworth and his record, but the party really needs a fresh approach it may not get with the other undeclared leadership prospects, who are all MLAs.

"I think it's time for someone new," she said.

She also said she is concerned there aren't many contenders in the race, and is hearing the same anxiety from other New Democrats, who have shared their views with her.

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Ms. Bacchus said the NDP failed to offer a clear compelling vision in the election last spring.

"I don't think it was clear in the last election what the NDP stood for. From my perspective as a parent, I didn't see much there in terms of what they were going to do in terms of education and childcare and some of the issues we know are important to B.C. families."

Ms. Bacchus said a recent court ruling that concluded the government tried to provoke a strike in talks with teachers got her thinking about the kind of government that she thinks the province needs. "I feel like we need to do government differently than what we're seeing happen."

Ms. Bacchus declined to identify the prospects she has been trying to recruit, but said she understood the leadership role is daunting.

"It's not a job a lot of people want to take on. It's a challenging job but it does need someone to do it," she said.

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About the Author
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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