Dosanjh wins B.C. NDP leadership

Ujjal Dosanjh is about to become British Columbia's newest premier -- at least for a little while.

Dosanjh easily won the first ballot victory at the NDP leadership convention in Vancouver. He polled 769 votes, against 549 for his only rival, Agriculture Minister Corky Evans.

Education Minister Gordon Wilson dropped out of the race less than an hour before the 1,400 delegates cast their votes, and threw his support behind Evans. The fourth candidate, labour activist Len Werden, withdrew Saturday.

The leadership campaign divided the party, with internal sniping, phony memberships, Liberals supporting the NDP and even a report of dead members on the membership lists.

In his acceptance speech Dosanjh pledged to work hard to find "a new direction in government." He told B.C. voters: "I want you to know that I have listened to you and I have learned from you about our shortcomings." He promised less confrontation and more co-operation in the legislature. And he said British Columbians will be able to "believe" the province's budget numbers in future.

In 1996 the government of Glen Clark found itself accused of lying to the public after a pre-election surplus turned into a post-election deficit. His resignation last year forced this leadership convention.

Dosanjh must now call an election by spring 2001, with his party showing record lows in the polls. He promises he will "pull this party together" by then.

Dosanjh becomes the first non-white politician to become a provincial premier.

Born and raised in the northern Indian state of Punjab, he came to Canada in 1968. Dosanjh, 52, put himself through university working in a Vancouver lumber mill. After earning his law degree from the University of British Columbia, he became labour advocate, helping to organize Indian farm workers in the Lower Mainland.

He first ran for a seat in the provincial legislature in 1979 and again in 1983, but was defeated. He was elected to represent the riding of Vancouver-Kensington in 1991 and has been B.C.'s attorney general since 1995.