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Leadership hopefuls head for Nelson, with education top of mind

MLA Katrine Conroy’s (above) pick for the NDP Leadership is Mike Farnworth.

While party outsiders cannot vote in the upcoming NDP leadership race, those interested in the future of education in the region might consider attending Thursday’s themed candidate debate in Nelson. 

The Nelson NDP Leadership Debate, featuring hopefuls Mike Farnworth, Adrian Dix, John Horgan, Nicholas Simons and Dana Larsen, is being held at Best Western Baker Street Inn at 153 Baker Street in the Osprey Room on Thursday,  from 7-9pm, doors at 6 pm. Written questions, chosen and posed by a mediator.   

Thursday’s Nelson event is the closest stop on the travelling provincial road show that sees all five contenders (three serious) landing in various cities to discuss key issues as BC edges toward the conclusion of its second leadership race in as many months.
Nominally, the theme of the Nelson debate is “family,” according to the website of CUPE (the Canadian Union of Public Employees), BC’s biggest union and a stalwart backer of the labour-friendly party. But expect some serious talk about the future of rural education, Conroy suggested.
“We’ll see what the candidates say,” said Conroy, stressing that she’s after commitments on changes to the per-student funding formula.
The “per-FTE” formula was brought in by the BC Liberals in 2002; it especially impacts the operating costs of school districts with many facilities to run and maintain, spread over large geographic areas with fewer students.
“We need to ensure rural BC is dealt with in a fair manner, because right now we’re really not as far as funding goes. . . . It’s something that Mike and I have talked about.”
Conroy recently announced her backing for Mike Farnworth, the most broadly recognized of the five candidates across the province and poll leader.
An Angus Reid poll released Tuesday found Farnworth the best choice for the NDP leadership by 54 per cent among decided NDP voters, though with the installation of Christy Clark, the governing BC Liberals are still in a lead amongst all decided voters (and leaners) at 43 per cent to the NDP’s 38 per cent and the ever-constant Green 10 per cent.
Interestingly, considering the whole same (of 807 people including undecideds), 43 per cent said Farnworth would be a “good choice” to replace Carole James as NDP leader.
“He’ll bring caucus back together and is a person who can take on Christy Clark,” said Conroy. “The goal is to be Premier of the province and Mike can be that.”
Conroy’s resignation of her caucus whip (responsible for internal discipline) post was something of a catalyst for the downfall of former NDP leader Carole James. Commentators remark that Farnworth has some style similarities with the leader he hopes to replace. A conciliator and relative centrist, he’s also a better manager, said Conroy.
“What I like about Mike: he will work with caucus. When he has to make tough decisions, he’ll make them, but he’ll utilize the skills of caucus . . . [and] respect caucus members’ individual abilities.” 
The only region where the NDP leads, according to the March 16-17 poll results, is in the Interior. The party is most popular among women (though something–likely a distinctly female Clark--eroded that advantage slightly over the last month), persons under 34 years old, and households earning less than $50,000 annually.
The Nelson NDP Leadership Debate, featuring hopefuls Mike Farnworth, Adrian Dix, John Horgan, Nicholas Simons and Dana Larsen, is being held at 153 Baker Street in the Osprey Room, Nelson on Thursday, March 24 from 7-9pm, doors at 6pm. Written questions, chosen and posed by a mediator.   

The March 22, 2011 Angus Reid poll is attached. It was conducted March 16-17, 2011 among 807 randomly selected British Columbians and has a margin of error of +/-3.5%.