Some B.C. New Democrats are coming to the defence of their leader after a high-profile party member said Adrian Dix should make way for an interim leader.
Last week, four-term Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan, a New Democrat for more than 30 years, called on Mr. Dix to exit early. On Friday, Mr. Dix refused to comment on the push.
Mr. Corrigan said an interim leader would provide a needed break from the Dix era and allow the party to discover leadership potential in rookie MLAs. But Mr. Dix has said he would remain as leader until the conclusion of the leadership vote.
“Mr. Dix is not responding to Mr. Corrigan,” said a statement from the NDP leader’s office. But two MLAs called The Globe and Mail to speak up for the leader.
Harry Bains, the MLA for Surrey-Newton, said the B.C. NDP needs stability now, calling discussion of the leadership issue “divisive” and a distraction from the job of providing effective opposition.
“I think [Mr. Corrigan] is wrong,” he said, calling the prospect of an interim leader “a detriment to our caucus and a detriment to our party.”
Raj Chouhan, MLA for Burnaby-Edmonds, said he had to “respectfully disagree” with Mr. Corrigan. “Everybody knows Adrian has decided to leave and he will be leaving. There is no rush.”
He said Mr. Dix is unopposed in caucus in his decision to remain leader along the timetable he has outlined.
The whole issue appears to reflect tensions among B.C. New Democrats as the party comes to grips with a defeat in the provincial election despite massive polling leads going into the campaign.
Mr. Dix has said he would step down as leader once a successor is chosen. Now the NDP provincial council is to decide, at the party’s biennial policy convention next month, whether to endorse an executive-council proposal to hold a leadership vote on May 25, 2014. Caucus divisions persist over the issue as some MLAs want an early vote while others say the party should not rush.
Two prospective leadership candidates – B.C. MPs Nathan Cullen and Fin Donnelly – have said a May date would be too soon to allow them to engineer a campaign. They are calling for a later date.
Even federal NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair was drawn into the issue of Mr. Dix’s leadership.
“I think the party has an interim leader in the person of Mr. Dix, who has indicated he will stick around until the new leader comes in and that’s internal to the party,” Mr. Mulcair said Friday after a news conference in Vancouver on transit policy. “Mr. Dix is an extraordinary individual and superb politician. You can interpret this any way you want, but I have lots of time for Adrian Dix.”
Two B.C. NDP MPs attending Mr. Mulcair’s news conference and who are considering leadership bids said Mr. Dix’s leadership is internal to the party and caucus.
“That’s a question for caucus and for the party to work out,” said Mr. Donnelly, MP for New Westminster-Coquitlam. “Until there’s a change internally, that’s who I am behind.”
Peter Julian, MP for Burnaby-New Westminster, said Mr. Dix was entitled to remain interim leader: “I think I disagree with Derek on this point.”
Mr. Corrigan, who is married to Burnaby-Deer Lake MLA Kathy Corrigan, said he spoke out to prompt discussion on the issue. “I wouldn’t have said it if I didn’t intend to cause a debate,” he said Friday.
Mr. Corrigan has ruled out any bid for the provincial leadership himself, saying he is focused on re-election as mayor next year, and, at 61, too old for the years of commitment required.
He said it appears some in the party are giving Mr. Dix a free ride. “Everybody has stood down and said, ‘What’s the point of kicking him when he’s down?’”
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