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NDP Leader Adrian Dix will step down, takes blame for election defeat

Embattled NDP Leader Adrian Dix announced his resignation Wednesday, after accepting blame for his party’s stunning loss in the May provincial election.
British Columbia NDP leader Adrian Dix leaves a news conference after announcing he would step down as leader of the party in Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday September 18, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Embattled NDP Leader Adrian Dix announced his resignation Wednesday, after accepting blame for his party’s stunning loss in the May provincial election.

“That we fell short on election day is my responsibility as leader,” Dix told reporters at a news conference in Vancouver.

“It has become clear to me that the best interests of our party mean that I need to step aside for a new leader, who will win the election in 2017.”

The move came amid rising criticism from former MLAs and party pundits that the NDP could rebuild only if Dix relinquished his leadership.

The NDP lost seats to Premier Christy Clark’s B.C. Liberals on May 14, prompting an internal review to identify how and why the party failed to connect with voters.

It was “an enormously disappointing defeat,” Dix said.

New Democrats must learn from the loss, but not dwell upon it, as the party prepares to fight again in 2017.

“The best outcome for the NDP will result from having a new leader,” he said.

A leadership vote should be held by mid-2014, Dix said.

NDP MLAs, who were told of the resignation just moments before the news conference, rallied around Dix to pledge the party would not slide into the messy internal war that marked the departure of leader Carole James in 2011.

“There’s some maturity in our caucus that wasn’t there a while ago,” said James, the MLA for Victoria-Beacon Hill who became one of Dix’s top advisers. “I hope that continues throughout the party.”

Vancouver Island NDP MLAs said Dix did the right thing by announcing his departure, and planning to stay in the job until a new leader is chosen. “People respected his struggle, and there was a tone of thanks [in caucus],” said Rob Fleming, NDP MLA for Victoria-Swan Lake.

It was nonetheless difficult, said Lana Popham, Saanich South NDP MLA. “I know it was a huge dream he had to let go of,” she said. “For me, it was a bit emotional to watch. I’m very proud of the decision that he made.”

Dix would have made a great premier, said Nanaimo NDP MLA Leonard Krog. “He had all the qualities that were necessary, but if you can’t win an election, it doesn’t matter how good you are,” Krog said. “Winning doesn’t always go to the smartest person in the room.”

Dix handled the decision with grace, despite some self-appointed critics who targeted him, said Juan de Fuca NDP MLA John Horgan.

“The caucus is supportive of Adrian,” he said. “The sniping, again, we’re the NDP, a party that does that sort of thing. We’re opinionated … and openly declare our points of view. That’s why we are who we are.”

Jockeying for party leadership has already begun, Horgan said.

Horgan finished third in the 2011 NDP leadership race and said, “I’d be foolish not to” consider another leadership bid. “I’m going to be talking to people over the coming weeks,” he said. “I have not talked to people until now because of my respect for Adrian and the position of leader.”

Dix, a three-term MLA for Vancouver-Kingsway, said he plans to run for re-election as MLA and will support whomever is selected as the next leader.