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B.C. NDP leader Adrian Dix faces media – and uncertain future

B.C NDP leader Adrian Dix reacts after losing the election to Liberal party leader Christy Clark at NDP headquarters in Vancouver, British Columbia May 14, 2013.

BEN NELMS/REUTERS

Adrian Dix's future in B.C. politics, after a defeat in last week's provincial election that shocked his party, is expected to become a lot clearer this week.

The B.C. NDP Leader is to meet the media Wednesday in Vancouver after quietly canvassing MLAs, candidates and others in the party on what went wrong.

Polls suggested the NDP was up to 20 points ahead of the Liberals and many expected Mr. Dix would become the first NDP premier of B.C. since 2001, but the Liberals won a fourth straight majority on May 14.

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Now some New Democrats are wondering whether Mr. Dix can hang on after such a defeat. Former B.C. Liberal leader Gordon Campbell, as well as former B.C. NDP leader Carole James, had two elections as leader, but one senior New Democrat said Mr. Dix won't have a second chance.

"He can't go into another election as leader because 'memo-to-file' will come up again," said the New Democrat, speaking on condition of anonymity. The long-time party member was among those canvassed by the NDP Leader in his post-election calls.

The remark refers to Mr. Dix's backdating of a memo on a casino application 14 years ago to try to protect then-premier Glen Clark.

The move cost Mr. Dix his job as chief of staff and was seized on by the Liberals during the recent campaign, especially when Mr. Dix, during the only televised leaders' debate of the campaign, defended himself by noting he was 35 when he committed the error. On various occasions, Mr. Dix also said he had learned from his mistakes and took full responsibility for them.

Mr. Dix did not return a call seeking comment on Tuesday. There was no sign of him at the NDP's caucus office in downtown Vancouver or his constituency office in Vancouver-Kingsway.

The New Democrat source also said Mr. Dix, a proponent of positive campaigning, would be hard-pressed to reinvent himself as a negative campaigner, even though such a shift will be necessary in 2017. "It would be seen as opportunistic."

"The decision to leave is his alone and the timing is his. It's probably better that it be sooner that later," said the New Democrat, adding Mr. Dix would otherwise be the focus of frustration, preventing necessary rebuilding of the party.

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Former NDP strategist Bill Tieleman said Mr. Dix needs to fully explain himself to an angry party.

"[New Democrats are] resentful. They're angry at all levels of the leadership of the party and campaign and everything else. They expected to win and they have been waiting a long time and they wanted to win and they didn't," he said, adding Mr. Dix and others made key decisions they would have to explain.

Others were more supportive of Mr. Dix, however.

Jagrup Brar, defeated in his Surrey-Fleetwood riding after almost 10 years as an MLA, says it's up to Mr. Dix to decide what to do after the "huge disappointment" of the election outcome.

Mr. Brar said the positive approach to campaigning touted by Mr. Dix clearly didn't work. "People didn't buy into positive campaigns. It's very clear."

Another key question Mr. Dix will face is why he decided to come out against the Kinder Morgan oil pipeline proposal mid-campaign, after vowing not to take a stand "on principle."

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Will Horter, executive director of the Dogwood Initiative, an environmental organization that spearheaded a "no tankers" drive, said he was frustrated to see a good policy position rolled out so badly. "The execution was so mishandled, they didn't get the upside of the position."

Mr. Horter had gone to each of the parties months in advance of the election to try to convince them that a stand against increased oil tanker traffic would be advantageous.

But by throwing it out mid-campaign, Mr. Dix was simply accused of making a flip-flop rather than a well-defended campaign plank. "I'm still surprised by the timing and how they brought it forward," Mr. Horter said

If he remains as leader, Mr. Dix will face a leadership review at the party's November convention.

Barring changes arising from recounts or other procedural issues, the Liberals have 50 seats, the NDP 33 seats, and the Green Party one seat. There is one Independent in the legislature.

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About the Authors
B.C. reporter

Ian Bailey is a Vancouver-based reporter for The Globe and Mail.  He covers politics and general news. Prior to arriving at The Globe and Mail, he reported from Toronto and St. John’s for The Canadian Press.  He has also covered British Columbia for CP, The National Post and The Province. More

B.C. politics reporter

Based in the press gallery of the B.C. Legislature in Victoria, Justine has followed the ups and downs of B.C. premiers since 1988. She has also worked as a business reporter and on Parliament Hill covering national politics. More

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