Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Don't be quick to underestimate Dix

I've already blown it once when predicting how new NDP leader Adrian Dix would do as a politician.
Back in December 2004, when Dix won an NDP nomination, I wrote that the Liberals should be pleased.
"For Gordon Campbell, it's like Christmas came three weeks early," I wrote. "Figure the Dix nomination is good for a few Liberal wins in close seats, as well as big laugh lines in campaign speeches."
Dix had, after all, been Glen Clark's closest political adviser as the NDP government plummeted in public support,
And after police raided Clark's home, Dix had produced a memo he had written that he said showed Clark had nothing to do with a friend's casino licence application.
The memo was dated almost a year earlier. But Dix had actually written the memo months later, got the office date stamp from a secretary's desk, and rolled the date back. Dix admitted wrongdoing and resigned.
I predicted Dix would be an easy target for Campbell and the Liberals.
And I was dead wrong. Carole James made Dix critic for the children and families ministry. He was by far the most effective New Democrat (helped by Liberal bungling).
Dix had command of the issues, raised them clearly and revealed government incompetence and indifference. He made life heck for Liberal cabinet ministers.
And, most important, actually made things better for kids and families who depended on the ministry.
The lesson is don't underestimate Dix.
The conventional wisdom, following his third-ballot victory, is that Dix isn't a great choice as NDP leader. Too left, too serious, too much baggage. Mike Farnworth or John Horgan would appeal to more voters, the theory goes.
When an election is called, likable Christy Clark will move move the Liberals to the centre, serious Dix will take the NDP to the left. The Liberals will win re-election, because most voters are moderate, the analysis goes.
But you could make an alternate argument that if Farnworth, for example, and Clark were both claiming the centre, voters might see no reason to swap a known quantity for a new governing party with a similar approach.
And, as I learned, it's a mistake to underestimate how much a very smart, hardworking and, perhaps, excessively focused person can accomplish.
Dix has continued to be an effective critic and strong constituency MLA. He championed the fight against school closures in his riding and helped parents mount an effective case.
His challenge - aside from the baggage - will be convincing voters his policies won't hurt the economy.
Still, Liberals are happy he won the leadership. The association with the late-1990s NDP government will hurt Dix, they think.
And Clark will portray him - accurately - as a supporter of having big business pay more in taxes. That will cost jobs and growth, she'll say.
Dix has a chance to present himself as the smart, slightly nerdy guy who will make government think first of how it can make life better for people who live here. Who will spend less time listening to corporations, and more to people. And who can pull the fractious NDP together.
Clark has her own baggage as deputy premier in the early years of the Campbell government, and a less than dazzling track record as a cabinet minister.
And she risks casting herself as the defender of the status quo.
I'm not sure how many people are fond of the status quo in B.C.
I'm also not sure people are ready to take a chance with Dix.
I am sure that my 2004 predictions that Dix would be a liability were wildly wrong.
Most Liberals seem genuinely pleased the New Democrats chose Dix to lead them into an election, likely this fall.
It's far from certain they will be feeling the same way as a September election campaign unfolds.
Footnote: B.C. Conservative leader-in-waiting John Cummins was quick to congratulate Dix. The Conservative impact is still the biggest unknown in the election, with the potential to cost the Liberals votes and seats.
Dix might help Clark in her effort to warn against splitting the centre-right vote.


bgreen said...

good observations, watching the online coverage it seemed obvious the ndp should take a team approach to forming government
dix, horgan, farnworth, james ...
much better team than anything the liberals have.

seth said...

Willcock's once again misses the giant fascist Achilles heel.

How hard can it be to whoop the Crusty with 3P contracts tripling BC debt over the NDP's and buying IPP power at 13 cents and giving it away on the Columbia grid for free at night in a crazy buy high sell low scheme powered by GRAFT?

Anonymous said...

If you want to talk about "baggage" Paul, let's talk about Christy Clark and the BC Rail scandal. She seems to think she's put that to bed for good - Tsakumis and a preponderance of his blog readers seem to think (hope might be a better word) otherwise. We'll just have to wait and see. She has yet to come even close to convincing me that AGT hasn't got it right. As for coming out of the gate as a crafty liar, how would you square the circle of her earlier promise that the pro- and anti- camps of the HST debate would be funded equally? With Big Business standing to gain ten billion dollars over the term of a single government, and no limits on their pro-HST advertising...Hmmmn. And we fell for that?

Raymond Graham

Anonymous said...

What will Christy do about, the casino being voted down, by city hall? She can force the casino through, and appease the Liberal investors. She can capitulate to city hall, and anger the Liberals. She is between a rock and a hard spot. What will she do?

I really like John Horgan. However, the candidates have reassured the BC people, they will work together for the people and the province. Dix, did own up to his mistake, and knows it was a foolish one. He learned from it, and I have confidence in Adrian. His concern for the people and the province, is genuine.

Christy, on the other hand, is trying to build on the BC Liberals lies, deceit, corruption, and cheating to win. She refuses to have a criminal investigation of, Campbell's corrupt sale of the BCR. That subject, hits too close for home. She has people, still very angry about the, BCR corrupt court case as well. The anger, regarding the HST, which was forced onto the people, still really rankles. Christy has said, the HST is here to stay. Looking cute in a hockey jersey, just doesn't cut it. The Liberal media propaganda machine, is also creating contempt for the Liberals. The people say, the BC Liberals, have always used dirty tactics to win. Reminding people, Campbell twice lied, to win two different elections.

The other plus is, we have our youth getting involved. They have no love for Ida Chong, who ate her way through $6,000 for her fine dining, on our dime. BC is the most corrupt province in Canada, by the BC Liberals corruption.

RossK said...

Wouldn't it be strange if that middle became a very thin line instead of that huge, fat median so much of the conventional wisdom says it is.

Crankypants said...

If conventional wisdom dictates that Dix was a weak choice because it took three rounds to have him declared the winner of the leadership of the NDP, then shouldn't the same rationale apply to Christy's victory which also took three rounds?

Another thing that is mystifying was the comment by Keith Baldrey on a GlobalTV broadcast. He stated that Adrian Dix won by 52% and intimated that number showed weak support from his party. I don't recall him making the same statement regarding Christy Clark's victory which just happened to be 52%. Nothing like unbiased reporting, is there?

Mr. Beer N. Hockey said...

I have long preferred a scrappy commie leading the NDP. A Farnworth/Clark/Cummins election would have been poor entertainment come election time. A Dix/Clark/Cummins card, on the other hand, promises to be a campaign unlike any other in many years.