Popular local MLA says no to NDP leadership run

But Fleming says he will consider interim leader role

Victoria-Swan Lake MLA Rob Fleming has good reasons for not choosing to seek the top spot in the provincial NDP.

“It’s something I’ve thought of, but it just doesn’t work for me right now. I’m happy to have arrived at that decision,” Fleming told the News. “It would be difficult for me. I have two small children – neither is school-aged. I’m just enjoying being an MLA.”

Today (Jan. 19), the provincial party holds its first caucus meeting since leader Carole James’ resignation. An interim leader will be chosen to lead until the April 17 leadership convention and Fleming hasn’t ruled out that option.

“I’m getting some encouragement from colleagues so I’m thinking about that,” he said.

When James announced her resignation on Dec. 6, Fleming’s name was quickly mentioned by pundits as a possible successor.

Jamie Lawson, assistant professor of political science at the University of Victoria, said Fleming’s white-collar, cool-headed image as a politician was likely the reason he garnered leadership attention. “He doesn’t particularly come across as a populist and he doesn’t come across as the kind of ideologue who’d scare people because he wants deep social reforms,” he said.

“If what you’re trying to do is get (the NDP party) past 40 per cent, you want some of the (voters) who are saying ‘maybe’ about the NDP to say ‘yeah.’ I think, in that kind of a situation, people’s minds politically are going to turn to someone like Rob Fleming.”

Fleming acknowledged whomever takes the party helm – in the interim and for the long-term – needs to “put the difficult events of the past month behind us and move forward … This internal ‘coming together’ will be key.”

Six leadership candidates are declared so far: Malahat-Juan de Fuca MLA John Horgan, Mike Farnworth, Harry Lali, Nicholas Simons, Dana Larsen and opposition deputy house leader Adrian Dix, who officially joined the race on Monday. It’s anticipated little internal support will be thrown behind any of the candidates until the Liberals choose a new leader next month.

“I was away when John Horgan entered the race, but he’s a person I have tons of respect for, and his abilities as an MLA are very strong,” Fleming said. “On issues like the environment and economic recovery, people are going to bring their own unique stamp to the job. I don’t think you’re going to see significant change in the direction of the party. I think it will really be more about which issues are prioritized and championed.”

kslavin@saanichnews.com