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Les Leyne: Adrian Dix has array of career choices

There’s more to New Democrat Leader Adrian Dix’s career call — expected this week — than “stay or go.

There’s more to New Democrat Leader Adrian Dix’s career call — expected this week — than “stay or go.”

Does he have a legal pad with all the pros and cons written down for each choice, as you’re supposed to for major life decisions?

Who knows? But here are a few of the factors involved with each choice:

• “I quit.” It’s what many expect to hear. But that doesn’t make it a sure thing. It would acknowledge the responsibilities that come with leadership. You get all the glory and all the blame. And he deserves a lot of the blame. Dix could step up and say as much, then step aside. That would involve the party naming an interim leader and starting work on a leadership campaign.

Quitting on the spot would avoid the prospect of getting an insipid endorsement or outright rejection of his leadership from the restive membership at the party’s convention in November. It would also mean surrendering a title that he worked very hard to win just two years ago.

• “I’m quitting. In a while.” If Dix has set his mind on quitting, timing is the next issue. There’s no rush to replace him. And he’s good at the job he had to settle for — opposition leader. He could carry on for a year or more while the party recovers from the election loss.

Many think Dix is only part of the problem; the party needs a major reset as well. Signalling but delaying his departure would give members time to talk about that.

The problem is that he becomes a lame-duck leader and there’s a certain discount applied to whatever he says or does. But they’re in opposition and will be for four years. So it hardly matters.

• “I’m waiting to see.” If he is reluctant to go or uncertain about the call, he could leave it up to the members. Delegates to the convention will vote on his leadership in November. (The exact issue is whether to hold a leadership review within a year.) He could announce he’ll take his guidance from them. It would be democratic, but it would also be a huge gamble.

The tide seems to be running against him at this point.

• “I’m not going anywhere.” Maybe he likes the job and desperately wants another chance. He could announce that he plans to face down critics and fight for his life as leader. He could run an internal campaign aimed at convincing delegates they don’t want a leadership review. The absence of any single obvious successor would work in his favour.

But if renewal is the theme, a leadership review is a logical part of that. If he asked people to vote against that, he could get an embarrassing answer.

• “I’m quitting — to run again.” He could play this wild card immediately, or after the delegate vote in November, if it ran against him. Stepping down would acknowledge his responsibility for the loss — the insipid campaign, the anti-jobs gaffe on the Kinder Morgan call, the “I was 35” excuse for the long-ago faked memo.

Turning around and running again would be the full and formal way of trying for a second chance. Joe Clark tried this with the Conservatives in the 1980s, after getting “only” 67 per cent support. It blew up in his face.

More pertinently, former NDP leader Carole James enjoyed almost two-thirds support of her caucus during the internal crisis over her leadership in 2010. It wasn’t enough. A minority of her caucus mutinied and forced her out, seven months after she lost the 2009 election. Two lessons from that: You need a lot more than a simple majority to hang onto leadership jobs. And time doesn’t heal all wounds.

• “I’m leaving politics entirely.” Another theoretical option would be stepping down and resigning his seat, as well. It seems unlikely, as most of his career has been in politics. But stranger things have happened. Former premier Glen Clark is Dix’s mentor and friend. He was a lifelong pol who didn’t have much trouble walking away from the career (under different circumstances).

Dix has a standing date to address municipal leaders at their Vancouver convention on Thursday morning. His decision will probably be known by then. The audience reaction will be the first measure of how it will be received.