B.C. NDP leader kicks out Cariboo MLA

B.C. NDP leader Carole James has kicked Cariboo North MLA Bob Simpson out of caucus for criticizing her leadership on a Williams Lake community website.
B.C. NDP Leader Carole James said Cariboo North MLA Bob Simpson has been removed from the party caucus. ((CBC))

B.C. NDP leader Carole James has kicked Cariboo North MLA Bob Simpson out of caucus for criticizing her leadership on a Williams Lake community website.

James is angry about online comments made by Simpson questioning her leadership and suggesting the party is struggling with her at the helm. She said the two spoke Wednesday night and she informed Simpson of her decision.

"Earlier this evening, I spoke with Bob Simpson, the MLA for Cariboo North, to advise him that he was no longer a member of the NDP caucus," said James in a short statement posted on the party website .

"Well, Bob has every right to his comments. He has every right to criticize but when you make it clear you don't agree with the direction of our caucus, the direction of our party and the direction of our team, you can't be a part of that team," she told CBC News on Thursday morning.

Simpson, who was a senior organizer for the B.C. Liberal Party before joining the NDP in 2005, has been critical of James in the past, a fact she did not hesitate to acknowledge on Thursday.

"Bob has been very open about the fact he hasn't supported the direction we've been taking as a party and as a team for a number of years. This isn't a surprise," she said.

Williams Lake posting led to ouster

On the Welcome to Williams Lake website, Simpson criticized the party leader's speech at the convention of B.C. municipalities in Whistler last week. He said James had little concrete to offer the delegates, her promises lacking specifics. 

Cariboo North MLA Bob Simpson has been kicked out of the NDP caucus for criticizing the party leadership online. ((CBC))

Simpson says his comments were only meant as a soft critique.

"I pointed out that I felt that none of the political leaders from any of the parties spoke to the issues of local government…. I fully expected I might get a slap on the wrist, I'm just a little shocked," he told CBC News.

But Simpson, says there may have been other reasons for James to fire him.

"My riding association has passed a couple of motions that I know the party is not happy with because they called for a leadership convention instead of a leadership review in 2011," he said.      

Simpson says he intended to bring his deeper concerns with the party to Carole James in person next week.

"We don't seem to be moving in the polls and I fear that we're not really presenting a positive image to British Columbians to attract them to us," he said.

Critical posting questioned James

On the Welcome to Williams Lake website Simpson wrote:

"The Leader of the Opposition likewise had little concrete to offer the delegates other than a commitment to be more consultative than the current government and a promise to explore the possibility of revenue sharing with local governments," he wrote.

"This is a timely concept which has the potential to address the resource needs of local governments, but the lack of specifics was a disappointment to delegates," he wrote.

But in the posting Simpson reserved his highest praise for Green Party leader Jane Sterk, calling her speech "the most courageous speech of the convention."

Simpson says he's still considering his options, but will sit as an independent for now. That leaves the NDP with 34 seats in the legislature, the governing Liberals with 48, and total of three candidates now sitting as independents.

Simpson, a former Liberal, has held Cariboo North since he was recruited by the NDP to run in 2005, edging Liberal candidates by about 400 votes in the 2005 and 2009 elections.

Simpson served as the forestry critic, and most recently sat as the critic for Aboriginal relations.