Adrian Dix’s benchmark for success is not only to wrest power from Christy Clark and her B.C. Liberal Party, but to best his own party’s record for turnout in the last provincial election.
To meet his objectives, he is aiming to counter the steady decline in voter participation. Four years ago, the NDP took about 690,000 votes – 40,000 fewer than in the 2005 B.C. election.
“Obviously, I’m hopeful the NDP will increase, not just its percentage of the vote, but the number of votes it gets,” Mr. Dix told reporters at the start of the political equivalent of a marathon – 24 straight hours of campaigning, leading up to the opening of polls at 8 a.m. on Tuesday.
“I think that will be a measure of a positive, successful campaign,” he said.
From the start, the NDP Leader vowed to reject personal attacks and was highly critical of the B.C. Liberal campaign he faced that zeroed in on him.
“To win by running a positive campaign will send a message across the country that this is the way we should go.”
However, Mr. Dix and his team have sharpened their attacks in the final week of the campaign in a bid to block the Liberals’ momentum. After starting out with a double-digit lead in the polls, the gap narrowed considerably and the New Democrats were no longer running the same frontrunner’s campaign.
Mr. Dix’s positive promises, increasingly, were backstopped with warnings that the Liberals would be more “arrogant” if they win again, and salted with humour aimed at Ms. Clark’s campaign gaffes.
At whistle-stops across the southern half of the province, Mr. Dix begged supporters to leave nothing to chance.
“Can you imagine what would happen after all of this if the Liberal Party won four more years? The last four years have been, shall we say, arrogant in terms of public policy. Can you imagine what that would be like?”
He also appealed to any voters who do not want to extend the current government’s 12-year reign. The theme of uniting opponents to the Liberals cropped up on placards at NDP events that read “together for change.”
In the final stretch, the NDP Leader planned to touch down in 22 ridings across the province, 16 of them in B.C. Liberal territory.
The tour was set to span key ridings in the southern Interior, suburbs including Surrey and Burnaby – and even Ms. Clark’s own riding.
But it started in the Vancouver Island riding of Comox Valley, to underscore his ambitions for boosting voter turnout.
The riding, like many of his campaign stops on Monday and early Tuesday, is a key bellwether – the NDP have never won power without without winning here.
In 2009, the Liberals won Comox Valley with a comfortable margin, but voter turnout was just about 47 per cent. Last week, the riding had one of the highest participation rates in the advance polls. “People can’t wait for change,” Mr. Dix said.
And in Prince George, his suit jacket off and his sleeves rolled up, Mr. Dix called recent Liberal attacks “disgraceful” and promised that his approach will pay off. “We are going to appeal to the hopes, the dreams, the aspirations of British Columbians.”