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October 11, 1999
Dosanjh's Rival Wants to 'Reinvent' the Party
A P Kamath in Vancouver, British Columbia
If opinion polls could make anyone a premier, Attorney-General Ujjal Dosanjh would rule the province of British Columbia today. But his opponents, who succeeded in postponing the internal election of the New Democratic Party to March, are hoping that the growing number of candidates for the premier's office will diminish and end Dosanjh's chances.
While India-born Dosanjh, who worked in lumber mills as a poorly-paid worker three decades ago while going to a law school, has not announced his candidacy, several of his rivals have done so in recent days.
Last week, Corky Evans joined the competition. He says the NDP has to wipe the slate clean of former premier Glen Clark's record and start over again to regain public trust. Clark was caught in controversies about a gambling license scandal.
He stepped down a few months ago when Dosanjh announced to the public that Clark was being investigated for criminal offenses. Clark loyalists, who believe that Dosanjh acted in his own interest and to boost his standing with the public, have not forgiven him.
"Glen Clark has given us that opportunity [by resigning]," Evans, who had sought the party's top position a few years ago and lost to Clark, declared last weekend. This is Evan's second bid for the NDP leadership. He lost to Clark three years ago, polling 234 votes to Clark's 802. Politicians and poll-conductors believe that Dosanjh could easily trounce Evans, and other emerging opponents because of his high-profile work as an attorney-general, and his emphasis on tough prison terms and more meaningful rehab programs for young law-breakers.
Evans is also seeking a high profile by projecting an image of a reformist who wants lessons to be learned from Clark's problems and subsequent downfall.
"It gives us the opportunity to bare our souls as a party to one another."
Evans, a former agriculture minister, says the polls point out that the NDP will not win the next election.
He says he knows the NDP is wracked by internal quarrels and is at an all-time low in the polls.
But he rejects the idea that the NDP is doomed; he asserted that party members should not be afraid of asking hard questions during the leadership campaign while the public looks on.
"We need to do something which is exceedingly rare -- reinvent ourselves as the world watches," Evans said.
He also suggested that the steady left-wing drift during Clark's reign should be halted and the NDP should become a middle of the road party.
Evans said the ruling party must start balancing the budget to "take away that club" from right-wing groups who would use it "for ideological ends".
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