Sunday, September 29, 2013

Adrian Dix Does It Again

{An edited version of the following post has also been submitted as a guest op-ed in the 100 Mile Free Press, Anahim-Nimpo Messenger, and the Omineca Free Press--MC}
Shortly after the NDP’s stunning defeat in last May’s provincial election,  former NDP MLA and political pundit David Schreck argued  that  “the party would be wise to change leaders in 2015 or 2016 to get a boost before the next election.”  UBC professor and  former federal NDP co-campaign chair Michael Byers added this thought on July 15: “Instead of a cosmetic paint job, the party needs to be knocked down to its foundations before rebuilding begins again. A leadership race is needed to turn the public memory away from the recent loss, to revitalize and grow the membership, and to get donations flowing again. .. [Dix] should step down in favour of an interim leader, who would serve until a new person is chosen to head the BC NDP.”   At the  end of  July,  long-time NDP MP Ian Waddell offered similar advice: “If Adrian Dix decides to step down as leader at its convention in November, the party should choose a respected interim leader who does not intend to run for the leadership. … Then, in 2015, the BC NDP should run a wide-open leadership race looking to a new generation of candidates.”

 Yet Dix announced on September 23 that he was going to hold the reins of the party leadership until a leadership vote could be taken “by mid-2014 at the latest.”  So why did he deliberately ignore the calls of so many prominent senior New Democrats and other commentators to allow for a longer lead-in under an interim leader and a more wide-open process?  Dix is nothing if not a consummate political insider.  He knows that  candidates who are currently MLAs—in particular his good friend (and best man at his wedding) John Horgan, will be most advantaged by the process he prefers.  He knows that Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson  has more than a year left in his mandate and will have difficulty making a decision and pulling together a winning campaign in this time; as will other potential “outside” candidates such as  Victoria mayor Dean Fortin and federal MPs Nathan Cullen and Peter Julian.  Dix’s concerns about these outsiders  no doubt motivated his subsequent remark that “B.C. doesn’t need two Liberal parties”.  

Not that I find Dix’s attitude  to be extraordinarily selfish or evil. Rather, I find it to be all-too-typical.  When there is a range of reasonable-sounding arguments available to a politician, they usually choose the ones most congenial to their world view and their interests.  The difficulty in this case is that, in presuming that the existing caucus and party do not need to undergo an extensive renovation, the NDP  may fail to assuage the concerns that many marginal voters and taxpayers have about an aging, insular, and hidebound party representing an overly-entitled and   self-serving public sector .  If the NDP fails to grab the centre from the left,  as Vision Vancouver has successfully done in civic politics, it may concede too much of the middle ground to the Liberals. And if as a result the Liberals win in 2017, they may once again be able to thank Adrian Dix.   


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