VANCOUVER – B.C. Opposition Leader Adrian Dix says he will leave as leader of the New Democrats as soon as the party can hold a leadership vote, saying the most important thing the party can do is stick together.
Dix, who was variously jovial and emotional during his announcement Wednesday, said although party members worked seamlessly in the lead up to May’s vote, the failure to win was his.
“That we fell short on election day is my responsibility as leader,” he said.
“It’s become clear that the best interests of our party means that I need to step aside for a new leader who will win the next election in 2017.”
Dix said he hopes a leadership vote will be held no later than the middle of next year and that he’ll retain his Vancouver-Kingsway seat and run again while doing everything he can to support the new leader.
Speculation about what Dix would do has been swirling for months and he left the legislature in July saying he would take time to reflect on his political future.
New Democrats MLAs, some of whom expected to be ministers in a government, were instead facing yet another term in opposition.
Earlier this month, when asked if he would run to replace Dix, finance critic Mike Farnworth refused to say.
But Farnworth, who was the runner-up in the 2011 leadership contest won by Dix, added: Why don’t we wait until we see what the future brings, but I did finish second last time.”
Christy Clark’s Liberals staged an epic come-from-behind win on May 14 when they erased a 20-point NDP lead in the polls and gave the Liberals a fourth consecutive mandate.
Since the election, Dix was rarely in the public eye and his supporters were quiet.
However, detractors had been publicly calling for him to indicate his exit so the party could get on with the rebuilding process.
Afterwards, when the shock of the outcome had worn off, New Democrats began to publicly question the party’s strategy during the campaign.
In particular, Dix’s decision mid-campaign to oppose the proposed expansion of the Kinder Morgan pipeline — a move Dix admittedly said was made with little consultation within the party — was heavily criticized as a job-killer by some in the labour wing of the party.
As well, Dix was strafed privately by party insiders frustrated with his staunch refusal until very late in the campaign to respond in kind to the Liberals’ relentless attack ads. Dix, supported by former members of federal NDP Leader Jack Layton’s campaign team, had been steadfast in his effort to run what he called a “positive” campaign.
None of that matters now, Dix said.
“I think as a party we need to move forward. We have to learn the lessons of that but not fixate on them because we’ve got work to do holding the Liberal party to account, first of all, and getting our own house in order and preparing for a coming election campaign,” he said.
“I strongly believe it’s a role of leadership and to ensure unity and to bring people together. That’s what guided me. … I believe, that the best outcome for the NDP will result in having a new leader.”
Dix was widely credited for pulling the party together after a divisive public fight over Carole James’ leadership. After a group of New Democrat MLAs, including long-time party stalward Jenny Kwan, launched a public campaign to dump James, she stepped aside.
James has said it was Dix who convinced her to remain in her seat and run again.
When asked if the party is now at risk of coming apart again, Dix said firmly the NDP’s new caucus is united and strong.
“Our new members are just outstanding. I just came from a meeting of our caucus and I think we are resolute and determined to keep the government to account for their cynical campaign.”