An emergency caucus meeting of the B.C. NDP has been postponed, according to the party's acting chair.


NDP Leader Carole James has said the most recent rift puts the very existence of the B.C. party at stake. ((CBC))

In a release, acting chair and Burnaby–Deer Lake MLA Kathy Corrigan said a meeting scheduled for 4 p.m. PT Sunday has been postponed indefinitely.

"Time is being given for private discussions to ensure that the clear direction set by our leader and our party is followed, to unite and offer British Columbians a positive progressive alternative in the next election," the statement said.

In an interview with CBC News following the release of the two-sentence release, Corrigan declined to comment further.

"I can't provide you with any information about the nature of the private discussion, but that is why the caucus meeting has been postponed."

It was expected New Democrat Leader Carole James would face her critics at the meeting, which was called following a revolt among her MLAs.

The meeting was scheduled after longtime MLA Jenny Kwan released a letter criticizing James and calling for a leadership convention.

Hope for unity

James hasn't said how she'll respond to Kwan and about a dozen other dissenting MLAs, but she has categorized them as a vocal minority trying to silence the majority. James has said caucus members will have a say about what to do with Kwan and the others.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting was postponed on Sunday, New Democrat MLA Adrian Dix said there is still hope for reconciliation within the party. 

'It's a very public show of breakdown with both political parties'—Kennedy Stewart

"What we want is a party that's united, that's presenting an alternative for British Columbians and working to the next election," he said.

"Hopefully, we're making progress on that and we've postponed the meeting so we can keep those discussions going."

Dix and other members of the NDP have been tight-lipped about the subject of the private discussions.

"The key question is coming together and being united and winning the election and presenting to people a strong opposition," Dix said.

"If this is the best way to get there then this is what we are going to do, so for the moment we are allowing the discussions to go along and let people work out some issues."

James not the problem, Campbell says

Meanwhile, Premier Gordon Campbell weighed in on the future of the NDP while making an appearance at a Christmas parade in downtown Vancouver on Sunday morning.

Campbell told reporters a new NDP leader wouldn't necessarily mean a stronger opposition. 

"It's not the person, it's the ideas. It's what they believe in. It's the principles they believe in, and I think one of the challenges for the NDP is that they have had trouble searching out the principles that they stand on, and that's their challenge," Campbell said.

"Our challenge is to be clear about where we are going in British Columbia and what we think we can accomplish in the province."

Campbell also hinted he may not stay on as MLA after a new Liberal leader is chosen.

"I think it's very difficult to stay on and in a caucus when you've been leader for 17 years," he said.

"I don't want to in any way cramp the style of the new leader and their opportunity to pursue the vision. I'll do what I can do to help the new leader, whoever that new leader is."

The Liberal leadership convention is scheduled to take place in February.

'Public show of breakdown'

Simon Fraser University political scientist Kennedy Stewart called the recent events in both the Liberal and New Democratic parties "extraordinary."

"It's a very public show of breakdown with both political parties," he said.

"You do have these extraordinary events that do happen across Canada, it just happens that we're having both parties go through the same thing right now in British Columbia. So ... it's not like aliens have landed from Mars or something, this is quite common in political parties, it's just pretty uncommon for it to happen in both parties at the same time."

Dissent within the NDP has likely been brewing for weeks, Kennedy said, even before the public was aware of the problems — so it's not clear what new ground will be covered in the upcoming private discussions.

"We've had a leader, Carole James, two weeks ago start drawing lines in the sand and then every two days there's another line in the sand and this seemed to be the final one — but it isn't," he said.

Stewart said either the dissident group has collapsed and will return "to the fold," or James will step down as the leader of the NDP in the coming days.

"It does make Carole James look extremely weak and ... even if she can survive this weekend, whether she can continue under these circumstances — it's very hard to say."

With files from The Canadian Press