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Deafening silence leading up to Dix’s decision

B.C. NDP Leader Adrian Dix has some uncomfortable weeks and months ahead.

Rafal Gerszak/The Globe and Mail

After four months of quiet consultation, Adrian Dix, the B.C. NDP Leader, will make a critical decision for his party's future this week. Since the party's stunning electoral loss in May, Mr. Dix has wrestled with three choices: Should he stay, should he go, or should he let NDP members decide his fate.

New Democrat sources said Monday that Mr. Dix is still actively considering all three options, including leading the party into the next provincial election. But the expectation is strong that the NDP Leader will step down rather than provoke a divisive internal battle.

Mr. Dix, who won the party leadership two years ago, has been under growing pressure from some party activists to resign over losing an election the NDP had been heavily favoured to win.

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The NDP Leader has launched a review to examine how the party frittered away a double-digit lead in the polls to end up with a smaller share of popular support than it took in 2009. A separate grassroots postmortem, called Forward B.C. NDP, is also underway.

Critics within the party blame Mr. Dix for the loss, pointing to his non-combative campaign tactics and his mid-campaign flip-flop on the Kinder Morgan oil pipeline proposal.

Others would have him stay just long enough for the party to recover from its loss, arguing that there is no rush to choose a new leader with the next provincial election more than three years away. Those voices argue the NDP still needs to examine the broader question of why it has been, with few exceptions, entrenched in the role of B.C.'s Opposition party.

Since the election, the New Democrat caucus has been silent on the leadership question, in part because there is an expectation that Mr. Dix will indicate this week that he is stepping down.

He could remain as leader in the interim – but on the understanding that he would not contest that leadership.

If Mr. Dix was hoping the past four months would eventually lead to a chorus of support for him to stay on, he must be disappointed. The silence from influential New Democrats and their allies in the labour movement has been deafening.

The NDP Leader has stayed out of the spotlight in recent days but a close source said he is still weighing whether he could win back the support of the party membership.

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He has little time: the party will gather for its next convention in November, where Mr. Dix would face a leadership review.

Mr. Dix fuelled speculation that he wants a second chance last week, when he referenced the successful comeback of Manitoba NDP leader Gary Doer.

The NDP Leader's third option is to set a leadership contest in motion – and then throw his name into the hat. This might avert accusations that he is clinging to power, and give the party time to see whether public opinion begins to swing against the governing B.C. Liberals again.

Mr. Dix has three likely opportunities this week to announce his future. Tuesday evening he is scheduled to meet with riding executives. He is also toying with making his announcement during his speech at the Union of B.C. Municipalities on Thursday morning – which would provide the widest audience. Or, he may drag out the speculation until Saturday, when he meets with the party's governing body, the provincial council.

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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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