Over the past two years, I’ve had numerous opportunities to talk to NDP leader Adrian Dix as he visited Langley.
He has visited this community far more than any other NDP leader in my memory. He has come to nomination meetings, general NDP events and election rallies. His predecessor, Carole James, either never came here in her eight years as leader or flew completely under the radar. She seemed to have little interest in issues that were of concern to people in this community.
Just one example — when the Port Mann Bridge twinning project was proposed, James was against it, stating there was no need to improve traffic flow on Highway 1.
I first met Dix when he was the health critic and came here to speak on behalf of Langley NDP candidate Kathleen Stephany, in the run-up to the 2009 provincial election. Dix was a very effective health critic, and pointed out numerous inadequacies in how the province was dealing with a wide variety of health issues.
When the NDP went into a leadership race, after James was publicly knifed by several of her MLAs, Dix was one of a number of candidates to replace her.
He and others came here to speak to NDP members, and in its usual tradition of openness and hospitality, the party invited the media to come to these events. I attended meetings with Dix, Mike Farnworth and John Horgan, and was impressed with all of them.
Dix eventually beat out Farnworth for the leadership and set about putting his stamp on the party.
One of the things that he emphasized was the concept that ridings like Langley were winnable for the NDP, and that more resources needed to be put into these ridings. This was evident in the last election, when more money was spent on NDP campaigns in the two Langley ridings than has been the case for decades.
He believed, and I think he is correct, that more voters who are likely to lean NDP were moving into Langley each year. Vote totals in both federal and past provincial campaigns bear out this contention.
Unfortunately, the NDP ran one of the worst campaigns ever in the May provincial election. Their vote totals in Langley were affected by this. Dix must take some of the blame and has now resigned as leader.
The party refused to focus on the shortcomings of the governing BC Liberals and sent very mixed messages about what it would do to develop the B.C. economy. With a more focused campaign, and some concrete steps to prove to skeptical voters that the NDP would create an atmosphere conducive to creating jobs, the party would have done much better.
The problems the NDP face go much deeper than Dix, one of the smartest politicians I’ve ever met. The NDP is an amalgam of public sector and private sector unions, environmentalists, social activists, small town residents and urban professionals.
There is little they agree on, and the party’s muddled campaign reflected their muddled philosophy. Dix was collateral damage.