Adrian Dix has led his last provincial campaign for the B.C. New Democrats, but the outgoing party leader is using his provincial-level profile to continue to tout some key tactical approaches that critics say hampered the party in the last election.
Since announcing his resignation this week, pending a 2014 leadership convention, Mr. Dix has said the positive political approach he championed on the campaign trail is one that New Democrats must continue to apply to their battles with the Liberals.
“I strongly believe that people in this day and age are turned off by the nastiness and the rancour of politics, and we need to do better,” Mr. Dix told reporters on Thursday following his last speech, as leader, to delegates attending the annual convention of the Union of B.C. Municipalities.
Some critics have said the high road spared Liberals attacks on controversial aspects of their record in government and cost the NDP the election.
Mr. Dix said it will take time for the positive approach to pay off, suggesting what he began will eventually reward New Democrats if they stick with his philosophy.
“That doesn’t mean, in one two-year cycle you can convince people, but over time by doing the right thing,” said Mr. Dix, who was elected NDP leader in 2011.
“In the long run, my vision for that will be accepted far more than the Premier’s.” Mr. Dix has complained that the Liberals unfairly attacked him during the campaign. He did not respond in kind.
But other New Democrats appear to have reservations about the positive approach.
“You can never let your opponents define you and attack you without responding,” said Rob Fleming, the NDP MLA for Victoria-Swan Lake. “Unfortunately we did do that.”
Mr. Fleming, who said he is not ruling out a bid to succeed Mr. Dix, said the lesson was highlighted in the failed U.S. presidential bid of John Kerry in 2004, and that he expects it will figure in a pending party review of the election campaign as one of several lessons the NDP should not have needed to learn.
“The elements of positive that need to be kept is that our politics should be solutions-based and I think we should not engage in personal attacks,” Mr. Fleming said.
He said the Liberals had committed many “misdeeds” that had angered voters, but the NDP campaign failed to remind them during the 28-day campaign.
Reflecting on the leadership race to come, Mr. Dix said caucus members would have advantages as candidates, but he was looking forward to a “diverse range of candidates” as part of a race that would also be welcoming to caucus outsiders.
Mr. Dix said he did not think it necessary for the party to seek candidates untainted by the NDP’s record in government during the 1990s – a frequent Liberal target.
“I think we have to address the history of our province and the history of our party with honesty and openness. We’ve got outstanding people who served in that government who continue to be a big part of the NDP,” he said. “I don’t think anybody should be excluded from the discussion.”
He said the challenge for the NDP, which has lost 19 of the past 22 B.C. elections, is to hold its base while reaching out to the extra voters required to put the party over the top and into government.
“The reality is we do very well, but we’re just falling a bit short consistently in election campaigns,” he said. “That we have to address and continue to work on, but we have to be ourselves.”