The provincial NDP must sort out its future policy direction before deciding who should lead the party into the next election, according to former Prince George-Mackenzie candidate Bobby Deepak.
Nearly four months after the NDP lost an election the party believed was theirs to win, Deepak said there's no sense in getting ensnared in a leadership debate before the party defines what it intends to be in the coming years.
"We're putting the cart before the horse when we're saying we need to change leadership without knowing what direction the party is going," Deepak said.
The opposition NDP held leads in the public opinion polls in the lead up to the May 14 vote, but the governing Liberals came out on top with 49 seats and 44 per cent of the popular vote. The NDP picked up 34 seats and 40 per cent of the vote.
Since then many in the NDP, including former premier Mike Harcourt, have called on Dix to step down as leader prior to a mandatory leadership review in November. Dix hasn't revealed his future plans, but has hinted he may announce his intentions later this month.
Last month, Deepak put out a call on his Facebook page asking his friends and followers what they think Dix should do. Overwhelmingly the response was for Dix to step down, something Deepak acknowledged is consistent with what he's heard verbally from other people locally. But rather than focus solely on leadership issues, Deepak is urging the party faithful to first plot a specific policy course.
He cited resource development as one example where the party needs to be more clear about its plans. In the platform the NDP pledged to work with communities and stake holders to find ways to reduce raw log exports by increasing local processing, but Deepak said the party should have spelled out details about how it would accomplish those goals.
"We're very wealthy when it comes to resources, but can't we do more with our resources in British Columbia so we can actually create jobs, so we can actually create wealth in British Columbia," he said.
Deepak identified two fatal flaws in the NDP campaign, which he said hurt the party's chances of picking up seats in the north.
First was the decision by Dix to come out against the proposed expansion of the Kinder Morgan pipeline from Alberta to Burnaby during the middle of the campaign. Deepak said that gave the Liberals ammunition to paint the NDP as an anti-jobs party.
The second was the decision by Dix and party leaders to run a positive campaign and not focus on the Liberals' record in office until the last days before the election.
"I think the people of British Columbia should have been reminded of the Liberal record and I think in an election that is what every party should be doing to show why you are the better party," he said. "If you don't remind people why they shouldn't vote for this other party, then it sort of defeats the purpose of you running."
In the end, Deepak lost to Liberal Mike Morris by almost 4,000 votes out of nearly 20,000 ballots cast in Prince George-Mackenzie, a result he wasn't expecting. He's yet to decide whether he'll make another run for office in four years time, but he plans to stay active in the party and with the Stand up for the North committee. In the meantime he's continuing his work as a lawyer at North Labour Law in Prince George.
Deepak said he was proud of the local campaign and said he gained a lot of experience during his time as a candidate including refining his public speaking skills and meeting new people.
"I think we put on a very good campaign locally," he said. "It was probably one of the best campaigns run for quite some time."