Saanich NDP MLAs support Farnworth for party leader

Victoria-Swan Lake MLA Rob Fleming and Saanich South MLA Lana Popham are throwing their support behind Mike Farnworth to be the new leader of the NDP.

Victoria-Swan Lake MLA Rob Fleming and Saanich South MLA Lana Popham are throwing their support behind Mike Farnworth to be the new leader of the NDP.

Saanich’s two NDP MLAs are endorsing the leadership candidate they say will give as much attention to Vancouver Island as his mainland home.

Lana Popham (Saanich South) and Rob Fleming (Victoria-Swan Lake) believe Mike Farnworth is the best candidate to give the new premier a run for her money.

“We see excitement building around ideas that are put out there by Mike,” said Popham, who will announce her endorsement of Farnworth today. “The excitement that builds up around a leadership race and how you watch the public react to some of the candidates is interesting. I think people in B.C. are reacting quite positively to Mike and they see him as leadership material.”

Both Fleming, who threw his support behind Farnworth on Day 1 of his campaign, and Popham say Farsworth is the best person to unify NDP dissenters who helped oust former leader Carole James. And that’s crucial right now.

“We’ve been in opposition for a long time, and sometimes (opposition parties) fall into a rut where they are sometimes overly critical to the point of being seen as complainers,” Fleming said. “Mike Farnworth, I think, will position the NDP as a government-in-waiting and make the NDP a fundamentally optimistic party.”

Popham, who was one of 13 MLAs who played a role in James’ resignation, says the party is going through a time of “transition” right now.

“There was a need for change or rejuvenation of the party, and I think we’re here now,” she said. “We needed to start putting out ideas that were new and strong and progressive, and that’s what we’re getting from our leadership candidates – Mike especially.”

Despite John Horgan (Juan de Fuca) being the sole Vancouver Island candidate, both MLAs say Farnworth’s much higher profile and his inclusive leadership style gives him a better shot at beating Premier Christy Clark in the next election.

“I have no doubt that there’ll be equal value put on all parts of the province under Mike,” Popham said.

“He gets Vancouver Island. He gets the South Island,” Fleming added. “He genuinely likes this community and understands it and the issues that need to be dealt with here.”

Popham’s endorsement, expected today alongside MLA Guy Gentner, and former MLAs Corky Evans and Harold Steves, centres on his “bold agricultural policies.”

“Agriculture hasn’t been made a priority in the province. The budget has been deteriorating and core services have been eroding,” she said. “We’re at a point where we have to start reinvesting. It’s not spending, it’s investing – and Mike recognizes that.”

Esquimalt-Royal Roads MLA Maurine Karagianis endorsed Horgan.

James, the MLA for Victoria-Beacon Hill, will not be endorsing a leadership candidate.

kslavin@saanichnews.com