Hundreds of supporters and constituents crammed into a sweltering hot Collingwood Neighbourhood House in the Vancouver-Kingsway riding last night to hear Adrian Dix’s emotional farewell speech as leader of the B.C. New Democrats.
After months of pressure to step aside after the party’s dismal and unexpected showing in the May 14 election, Dix reiterated his view that his positive campaign style was not the cause of his defeat, and accused Premier Christy Clark of “cynical” politics.
“A lot of people have said that we were too positive in the election campaign,” he said, in a speech that several times saw his voice crack with emotion, “that I should have been nastier to Premier Clark.
“I don’t think many people think the Liberals could have been nastier to me! But I don’t think the people we want to re-involve in the political process would be inspired by a descent into nastiness. We’ve got to keep our heads up high. . . We need to be true to the best in people, and we will be.”
In attendance were a who’s-who of MPs, municipal leaders and MLAs, including most of those predicted to enter the race to replace Dix.
When asked by The Tyee about their ambitions, many attendees who have been tapped as possible candidates in an as-yet undisclosed leadership race said it was too soon to declare their plans. Pundits have suggested MLAs Mike Farnworth, George Heyman, and David Eby — all of whom declared the occasion “Adrian’s day,” not a time for campaigning.
“Tomorrow will be about the future of the NDP, but tonight is all about Adrian and his accomplishments,” newly-elected MLA and former Sierra Club head George Heyman told The Tyee. “We need to be looking forward.”
John Horgan has also been suggested as a possibility, as has federal MP Nathan Cullen, though neither have declared such a plan.
Dix ruled the party since predecessor Carole James was ousted in 2011. Long-time legislator Jenny Kwan played a central role in that coup, and described the coming months as a time of renewal for the party. She told The Tyee she has no intention whatsoever to run for leadership.
“This is a sad day in many ways but at the same time,” she toldThe Tyee, “losing is not the end of everything.
“We have a blank slate that we can work on in terms of rebuilding the party, and connecting with British Columbians with what is important to them in their hearts and minds.”
Commenter and former MLA David Schreck said Dix handled his exit “graciously,” but warned that the party has to do much work to regain voters’ trust under the current leadership of president Moe Sihota.
“I would have preferred to have seen the resignation the first week after the election, but better late than never,” Schreck said. “A lesson out of the campaign is that you have to hold the government to account.
“You both advocate your agenda, and you attack the other side for its failures. You don’t sit back and protect what you perceive to be an insurmountable lead.”
Schreck said that part of the party’s failure this election was that it allowed the Liberals to taint Dix based on a memo he back-dated when he served under ex-Premier Glen Clark in the 1990s, as well as being accused of SkyTrain fare evasion.
“Those incidents served to fatally brand Adrian as leader of the party, and made it impossible for him to have a second chance against Christy Clark in 2017,” Schreck said.
The NDP convention is scheduled for November. Dix said he will stay on as an MLA, and called on party members to not “descend into bitterness or unhappiness” in the coming leadership race. “It’s the time to reach higher,” he concluded.