Hopes are high among B.C. New Democrats after Adrian Dix announced Wednesday that he’s stepping down as Opposition leader.
Tom Friedman, the party’s council delegate for the Kamloops-South Thompson riding and the former candidate, said he’s confident the NDP can win the 2017 election.
“I think there’s a good chance,” said Friedman. “From what we’ve seen since May, I don’t think this is a government that’s really in control. They cancelled the fall sitting of the legislature because they don’t want people of B.C. to see specifically what their plans are.”
A Liberal Party caucus representative said government MLAs are not commenting on the announcement.
Friedman said that in order to make headway, the NDP has to elect a new leader as soon as possible.
During a press conference on Wednesday, Dix said he must take the blame for the party’s devastating election loss in May, a vote the NDP was widely expected to win.
“I’ve tried to put the long-term future ahead of any personal ambition,” he said, appearing both jovial and emotional.
“That we fell short on election day is my responsibility as leader.”
Dix said he will stay on until a leadership vote, which he wants to be held no later than the middle of next year.
He also said he would retain his seat and would run again as MLA for Vancouver-Kingsway.
Dix left the legislature in July saying he would take time to reflect on his political future.
Since then, Dix was rarely in the public eye and his supporters were quiet.
However, detractors had been publicly calling for him to indicate his exit plan to allow the party to get on with the rebuilding process.
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.
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.
Friedman said that while Dix was committed to a positive campaign the campaign should’ve been more aggressive.
“I think we should’ve been far stronger in pointing out the harm that they’d done,” he said. “Attacking opponents personally is not the way to go. I think it turns people off politics. However attacking the bad policy decisions of opponents has to be part of the political campaign and I don’t think we did that effectively.”
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 was widely credited for pulling the party together after a divisive public fight over Carole James’ leadership, which prompted her to step aside.
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.”
Now speculation turns to his successor. While Friedman is not backing anyone yet, he said John Horgan and Mike Farnworth would each make strong contenders.
Each ran for the party’s leadership against Dix.
Farnworth served as cabinet minister in 1996 under the then-NDP government. He is now serving his third term in opposition for the Port Coquitlam riding.
Although he’s been noncommittal about running for the leadership again, he did point to media recently that he placed second in the last race.
Horgan finished third in the race. The three-term MLA from Juan de Fuca has been a civil servant in Ottawa and under NDP premier Mike Harcourt. He’s also been noncommittal about running again.