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B.C. NDP letting Dix decide his own future

BC NDP leader Adrian Dix talks to Globe and Mail writer Gary Mason in Vancouver, May 23, 2013.

Rafal Gerszak/The Globe and Mail

In the four months since he led his party to an unexpected electoral defeat, B.C. NDP Leader Adrian Dix has deflected questions about his future as the party's front man while his caucus, uncharacteristically, has allowed him the time to make the call on his own.

That could change if Mr. Dix announces next week that he intends to stay on. Outside the elected members of the provincial New Democratic Party, there is increasing agitation that Mr. Dix has to step down. But for the battle-scarred veterans of the last power struggle within caucus, there seems little appetite to publicly force his hand.

In the absence of a leadership race, the past 18 weeks have allowed the MLAs a chance to regroup, and to demonstrate to the public that they haven't forgotten their role as the government's opposition.

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On Wednesday, as the 34-member caucus assembled for a fall planning session, the MLAs were careful to avoid any hint of dissent. They were not begging Mr. Dix to stay on, but seemed willing to wait for him to dictate his own terms.

Reporters were treated to a jocular exchange between Mr. Dix and his house leader (and one-time leadership rival) John Horgan. "I've got a question for the leader of the opposition," Mr. Horgan joked as they engaged in a mock debate in a legislature corridor.

Mr. Horgan would be a likely contender if Mr. Dix kicks off a leadership race next week. But Mr. Horgan has signalled that he doesn't favour an early leadership contest, and he believes the anger toward Mr. Dix over the party's loss has diminished.

"I don't believe the urgency people felt in the beginning is there today," he said in an interview. He said the membership can express their views at the party's convention in November, but in the meantime the caucus doesn't need a divisive battle. "The caucus is focused on the issues that should be driving us – the people's agenda, not the NDP's agenda."

But the party membership may not have to wait until November: Mr. Dix said he will announce next week whether he intends to stay, or step aside. "I'm still meeting with people," he told reporters. "It's going to be interesting for you."

MLA Carole James, the former NDP leader who was at the centre of the party's last internal power struggle, told reporters there is consensus that there is no appetite for bloodshed: "I think the caucus has been very strong, has pulled together, has recognized we have come out of a very difficult time."

There are those in the party, including senior campaign workers, who have expressed frustration about Mr. Dix's slow exit. But Ms. James, who was forced to step down in the face of a caucus revolt in 2010, won't let leadership aspirants forget that there are better ways to go.

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Mr. Dix has fuelled speculation that he might try to stay on. In a CBC Radio interview Wednesday morning, he mused that "often, leaders are stronger the second time around," citing former Manitoba premier Gary Doer's eventual 10-year term that came only after repeated electoral losses.

In the next breath, however, Mr. Dix said he'll do what is best for the NDP.

In a party with a history of nasty leadership fights, his foot-dragging has afforded the NDP a chance to recover from its shocking loss before launching into a leadership contest. The next election is 2017, giving the party some time to chart a new path.

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About the Author
B.C. politics reporter

Based in the press gallery of the B.C. Legislature in Victoria, Justine has followed the ups and downs of B.C. premiers since 1988. She has also worked as a business reporter and on Parliament Hill covering national politics. More

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