One of British Columbia's most politically successful New Democrats says party leader Adrian Dix should leave his post now so an interim leader can take over and allow the party to see if leadership potential develops among new MLAs.
Derek Corrigan, the four-term mayor of Burnaby and a card-carrying New Democrat for 35 years, says the "difficulty" in leadership issues with the New Democrats now is that Mr. Dix decided to stay on after the party was unexpectedly defeated in the recent provincial election.
"Because Dix has held on, there's a desire to have a fairly quick leadership convention. I think people want to move on from the Dix era as quickly as possible," Mr. Corrigan said in an interview on Thursday.
When Mr. Dix recently announced his departure, he said he would stick around until the party picks a permanent new leader at a vote he said should come early in 2014. However, there is an intense debate under way among New Democrats on whether to hold the vote on May 25 or postpone it until later – an option favoured by some B.C. NDP MPs who are interested in running but say the planned vote is too early.
The party's provincial council decided this week to postpone a decision on the issue until the party's biennial policy convention next month.
"There needs to be a higher level of consensus around this decision," outgoing party president Moe Sihota said in an interview. "It's obvious this is a decision people want to make with some care and further thought. My sense is people felt they were being rushed a bit. The world is not going to end if we defer this."
Mr. Corrigan said an interim leader would allow New Democrats to focus on how things play out in the legislature.
"Do some of these young people that are in the legislature show up as being candidates for leadership? Do they have the potential to take it on – or alternatively are you at a situation where there may be more consideration from federal MPs as to whether or not they are going to run for the leadership."
Mr. Corrigan said there is still an opportunity for Mr. Dix to take this path. "Dix could still make the choice … to say, 'It may be in the best interests of the party to delay [the leadership vote], but I am not going to delay my resignation.' That would be a middle ground."
Mr. Corrigan also offered a new perspective: He said the NDP should hold off on electing a new leader until 18 months before the 2017 provincial election so that leader could head into the provincial vote with some momentum.
"I would want to give somebody the opportunity to get into the legislature and get their feet wet as leader, but also carry the momentum into the next election of having someone fresh and new," he said. "I see this as one of the ways the party could take time to rejuvenate itself. This is the time we need to take to lie down and lick our wounds."
However, Mr. Corrigan emphatically said he will not be a candidate for leadership because he is focused on a bid for re-election as mayor in 2014 – and, at 61, he said he was too old for a job that would last several years. "The numbers just don't work out for me anymore," he said.
Mr. Corrigan said he has been approached often about the opportunity even prior to the 2011 vote that elected Mr. Dix as leader. "I think I am almost invulnerable to solicitation," he said.
Mr. Corrigan is married to Kathy Corrigan, NDP MLA for Burnaby-Deer Lake.
Nathan Cullen, the NDP MP for Skeena-Bulkley Valley, said on Thursday that he would leave Mr. Dix's fate to the leader and caucus. In an interview, he said he was gratified by the delay in a decision on a leadership vote as he tries to decide whether to run.
While he will attend the party's November convention, he said he won't push any line on changing the date of the vote. "There will obviously be a debate," he said. "I would probably be more in the position of wanting to listen than mounting some kind of campaign."
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