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NDP leader James is on right track, says former premier Harcourt

New Democratic Party leader Carole James is on the right track and her caucus should support her, former NDP Premier Mike Harcourt told The Tyee today.

“What I've said to Carole is 'you're on the right path,' so the same message goes through to everyone else in the NDP,” Harcourt said in a phone interview.

Last week James ejected Cariboo North MLA Bob Simpson from the NDP caucus, saying he's welcome to return when he's ready to work constructively with her team. Today Columbia River-Revelstoke MLA Norm Macdonald resigned as caucus chair saying he could not continue given recent events.

Harcourt characterized the rift as a “traditional debate” within the party between those who want to form an opposition and those who want to be seen as an alternative that's ready to govern. “It's been going on for decades,” he said.

Less energy should go into battles within caucus and more into talking with British Columbians about issues, he said. “There is a duty on the NDP to be ready to govern because we're the alternative in this province.”

James has been taking opportunities to engage people on the economy, education, health care and open government, Harcourt said, adding his approach was similar before he won the 1991 provincial election.

“That's the key, to get out and show some leadership on the issues she's outlined,” he said. “I think that approach that Carole's taking is the right one.”

The real challenge will be a year from now when James will need to give a more detailed look at her priorities and offer a plan for how to fund them, he said.

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

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