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Adrian Dix announces his resignation as leader of the B.C. NDP in Vancouver, Sept. 18, 2013. (Rafal Gerszak for the Globe and Mail)
Adrian Dix announces his resignation as leader of the B.C. NDP in Vancouver, Sept. 18, 2013. (Rafal Gerszak for the Globe and Mail)

Gary Mason

Liberal attack ads did their job on Dix, and more Add to ...

BC NDP Leader Adrian Dix did what most expected – announced that he will be stepping down as head of his party.

“I need to step aside for a new leader,” said Mr. Dix at a Wednesday news conference.

He confirmed his decision after an awkward introduction to his remarks that included cringe-worthy jokes about Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo and the team’s new head coach, John Tortorella. They were met with silence by those in the room. The uncomfortable moment only seemed to highlight a social awkwardness that always stood in stark contrast to the natural charisma of his political nemesis, Premier Christy Clark.

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The embattled NDP Leader had faced calls for his resignation shortly after the stunning results of the May 14 provincial election were in and it was clear that his party had somehow managed to squander a 20-point lead in the polls and lose badly. Most of the blame for the defeat was laid at the feet of the person who was considered the chief architect of the party’s electoral strategy – Mr. Dix himself.

Mr. Dix was criticized for many things, particularly his decision to come out against the Kinder Morgan pipeline in the midst of a campaign that Ms. Clark successfully made about the economy. He was also haunted by a decision he made while chief of staff to former NDP leader Glen Clark in the 1990s – forging a memo to help protect his boss from an ongoing conflict-of-interest investigation.

Even though it had happened years earlier, the Liberals used ads about the incident to further brand Mr. Dix as untrustworthy – an image many felt he would never be able to shake if he remained at the helm.

Which is undoubtedly what Mr. Dix wanted to do. He indicated as much in an interview with The Globe and Mail mere days after the election was over. In a long, heartfelt conversation in which he confessed how devastated he was by the loss, Mr. Dix said he’d be a far better campaigner the next time around and referenced other political leaders such as former Manitoba NDP premier Gary Doer, who’d lost three elections before winning it all.

The problem for Mr. Dix is that few in the party had the same faith in him. In the preceding weeks, one party stalwart after another made public pleas for him to resign in the best interests of the NDP. A grassroots movement calling itself Forward BC NDP also sprung up, challenging the current executive to step aside to make room for a new generation of activists intent on modernizing a stale and out-of-date party infrastructure.

The common perception inside the NDP is that Mr. Dix was so effectively defined by the Liberals in the last campaign as a capricious and shifty job killer, it would be all but impossible for him to ever shake those labels. Not to mention that his campaign skills paled beside the considerable abilities that Ms. Clark exhibited on the hustings.

Mr. Dix said he plans to remain as an NDP MLA and support whomever succeeds him as leader. He may even have some words of advice to offer.

Follow on Twitter: @garymasonglobe

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