Bill Bell: A coffee with Adrian Dix

My wife Dorothy and I recently had coffee with Adrian Dix. We were meeting to discuss diabetes and how in a nonpartisan way we can help people recognize the symptoms

(A story in the Vancouver Sun on Dix and how he discovered he had diabetes was the key to me going and getting tested. I owe him big time for that). 

Like so many good politicians whom I have met, Adrian in person is far more dynamic than his TV personality. I feel the exact opposite about many of the other politicians whom I have encountered who had great TV personalities, but often were horrible when seeing them outside of the television glare. René Lévesque was the exception, who was both memorable on TV and great in-person.

But I digress. The coffee was supposed to be a short one, but it lasted one and half hours. The discussion centered mostly on health care in B.C., an obvious passion with Dix, but he allowed both Dorothy and I to lament the lack of a strong negative campaign. Without being defensive, he explained some of the reasons and why some of the more controversial decisions were made.

Although I did not agree with all of his reasons, many of his historical and budget rationales made sense. More importantly, Dix showed that he had learned from the “tactical” errors made during the campaign.

As someone who was impressed by the vision of British Columbia that Dix expressed during the election (and dismayed at the tactics), I was intrigued by Dix’s vision of where the party will have to go if it wants to expand its base. His vision gives hope that the party’s base can be expanded without selling out its soul. To me that is an even more important issue than who will lead the party.

The coffee discussion was not an “on-the-record interview", rather a frank talk between two fellow travellers. I won’t divulge any of the “meat” of the conversation, but hope his views will become public over the coming months before the November convention. One thing he did not divulge—nor did I ask—was his intention to stay on as leader of the party. He threw a few teasers by pointing to former Manitoba premier Gary Doer’s election defeats before winning, and then followed by another teaser that said he planned to be an MLA for a long time.

It is no secret to those who have read my thoughts that I have not jumped on the bandwagon to get rid of Dix. I think Dix has become one of the NDP’s best assets—a leader who has been tested by fire and, more importantly, through that experience will become a better leader and perhaps become the next NDP premier.

I have said it before and will say it again. There were very few of us who said as loudly as I did during the election campaign that the tactics were wrong and that we had to hit hard. A scant few of us were willing to say that our leader is good, our policies are good, but we need to focus on the failures of the B.C. Liberal government. Hit them hard.

Most folks I met on the campaign trail were eagerly following the “play nice” campaign and it is those folks who are now ready to throw Dix out with the bathwater.

He continues to be our leader. The very least we owe him is an opportunity to listen. What went wrong? What could we have done better? How should we proceed in the future?

Comments (13) Add New Comment
blah
"The very least we owe him is an opportunity to listen." The voters listened and didn't like what they heard.
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Rating: +7
James G
Puffiest of all puff pieces I have ever read. Is there never, ever accountability to face for anyone belonging to the ruling clique of today's BC NDP?

The main focus of the party during the election should have been to win the election. Not to detail policy announcements for a government that was never to be and not to exonerate each and every individual who made a mistake that cost the Glen Clark government, as worthy as that would be.

You must win an election and that means having to give people reasons to turn up to vote and to vote for the NDP. Did they do this?

To whomsoever hired Brian Topp to 'manage' the campaign-off-a-cliff: Did you ever hear tell of the fairy tale "Jack and the Beanstalk?" You raised more money than ever before and more average and working class folks than ever ponied up as much money as they could afford. You took this and handed it over to an individual in a consultancy with an adamant flat-tax advocate and someone who had done everything possible to fuck up the Ontario NDP. Don't you yet realize what you have done? You bought the magic beans, baby. You should be ashamed. You won't be though so you must be fired. FIRED!

It isn't necessary to establish a panel to try to whitewash what happened. All we need are some mea culpas, including some offers of resignations. So Gary Doer spent several elections rebuilding what was discredited? That's what Carole James did here. Where is she now? Oh, that's right, she was shoved aside by the House of Dix. Gotta help your friends first, right? Winning elections can wait?

It isn't necessary to prove or disprove malfeasance here. Didn't Brian Topp just prove his ability to lose? He ran for federal NDP leader. Did he win? He helped coach Jack Layton in the last federal election. If he had foreseen the breakthrough would he have not at least written his name into one of the Quebec ridings? It was good enough to write in the name of an Ottawa bar manager, so he had no clue the breakthrough would occur. He could have run later in the Toronto-Danforth bye-election to greatly help his chances in the later leadership election. Did he? No, no and no. Three obvious failures in a row, he gets hired and then there is the nonsense of a 'three wise men' consultancy from across the spectrum. He wasn't fired but all of those who hired him can still be fired. Let's do so!
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Rating: +15
Dave Harper
I am sure Adrian Dix is a nice man. I am glad you got tested for diabetes.

That doesn't change the fact that he lost an election that was his to lose. He did so. He has to step aside. Politics is not a career. If a leader can't win, he's done. Carol Hames did better in a tougher election.
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Rating: +5
Neil
Other politians have lost races they should have won and, when given another chance, pulled out a victory. Gordon Campbell being chief amoung them.

While there was plenty wrong with the campaign, I think the NDP's popularity pre-election played perfectly into the Liberals hands. NDP supprters took a win for granted and a Conservative base motivated by fear got the Liberal vote out.

Adrian is a smart guy, I think he would do better at another go. I know that there are many who don't want that. Being a party guy, I'll support whoever the party goes with. I just think we could do a lot worse than Adrian and that the sting of defeat should not be the deciding factor to oust him.

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Rating: -4
Kevin Logan
The most pressing question for the NDP and its biggest challenges do not lie in one man or woman and are in fact far removed from the leader's office.

The NDP, like many parties, have often demanded accountability for past failures from leaders. And good leaders do take responsibility, however doing so does not always equate to "stepping aside."

We can learn from the Federal Liberals who saw leaders lose and leave, so frequently that all it did was contribute to a downward spiral. And we are suffering the results of that to this day.

The BCNDP has no Justin Trudeau in the wings, no rock star to swoon the media, and indeed no NDP leader will ever enjoy rock star status. Layton was an exception, not the rule, and his rock star status was not tied to achieving power, but rather part of ensuring Harper did.

Its important we look past the office of the leader for the real change the NDP needs to undertake, and if the membership decides that a new leader is required to succeed with those changes than so be it.

For now Adrian has earned the chance to redeem himself, and as Bill says here, to be heard. And more importantly, to prove that he has learned from the last election experience, which was an exceptional one.

Without a real and distinguished alternative for the role of leader, the NDP would be wise to ensure that they can win an election regardless of who the leader is, before simply making one pay for losing an election, something, I, might add, they do all too often no matter who the leader is.

Maybe Dix can pull it off. Maybe he can oversee what needs to be done to win. Many were prepared for him to run the Province and indeed many felt he would have been better than the person who is.

Therefor maybe its worth giving him a chance to take on the real and daunting challenge of doing what is necessary, a challenge no leader has done in a very, very long time.

I was and am a very vocal critic of the campaign, however, it is my opinion the NDP would have faired even worse if it was not for a lot of the work Dix himself did in his capacity as leader.

Dix did not lose the election the campaign did, and the BC NDP needs to take responsibility along with Dix, and more importantly they need to change the culture and objectives of the party's hierarchy in order to win.

That is self evident, and the NDP should choose whoever is capable of doing that.
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Rating: -11
HellSlayerAndy
"the lack of a strong negative campaign"

Dix ran a perfectly acceptable campaign strategy that was similar to the one Obama ran.

Be Positive, Emphasis Change, Stay on Message. Stay the Fuck out of the Gutter because you can't win that fight with a guy like McCain.

But lets let the Dix fanboys explain how he really really is a brilliant policy guy... when you get to know him over coffee. Talk about damning with faint praise. A policy wonk that didn't seem to 'wonk'?

The rest of us won't forget the fact that a man who had spent his entire life doing nothing more than politics seem to possess LESS political acumen than Sarah Palin. At least SHE KNEW what HER supporters wanted to hear.

Every election loss -- the same song and dance...it's the media, it's corporate financing, it's negative campaigning, it's red-baiting, etc etc.

Sorry NDP...you don't get any slack anymore...your a dishonest, cynical trade union front who don't give a shit about winning elections and only care electing union puppets to maintain the overall political culture that is designed to freeze out any public policy debate that might go against narrowly defined union goals...mo' money.

So if people in the BC are unenlightend politically it is because political debates, like education policy, aren't really about education policy but teachers' pay

Now why would the Unions fuck that 'beautiful relationship' up and do something stupid like win an election, Mr. Bell?

To what end...spend four years claiming their generous prize to only then potentially face a massive backlash and end up with 2 seats or worst...some nightmarish right wing populist with a huge mandate to 'smash the unions'?
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Rating: -5
Richard Hughes
I like Adrian Dix. He is a decent and thoughtful man who wants to improve life for British Columbians.

However, this is politics and he showed poor judgment and lost as a result.

The NDP need a new leader, but that is just the beginning of reforms needed.

They need to get back on track and that means no corporate donations, no union donations, no fracking, and no to centralizing power in the centre.

Time to shift power and funds back to the local communities and away from the slick big spenders who blew an election against the worst BC Government ever.
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Rating: -1
Arthur Vandelay
There is simply no way to mask the political stench of the Glen Clark regime from an insider of that epic failure of government. Why would a party want to start with that kind of handicap anyways? And now he's referencing Gary Doer? He should more likely be referencing Bob Skelley.
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Rating: 0
DavidH
Danielle Smith of the Wildrose Party was absolutely, positively guaranteed to win the 2012 Alberta election by a wide margin. Despite predictions from a legion of pundits and pollsters, the Wildrose Party fell flat, winning only 17 of 87 seats.

Dix and the NDP made several mistakes in MY view. But nobody really knows (yet) why they lost - any more than the Wildrose (still led by Danielle Smith) knows why it stumbled on election day in Alberta.

The first reaction to the previous NDP loss was to pull out the long knives and get rid of Carole James. The first reaction to the latest loss was to turn on Dix.

So what's the party plan? A new leader every four years until they accidentally win? Or a patient, focussed development strategy? Takes your pick kids.

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Rating: -10
Shepsil
Adrian's own leadership race is between now and the convention in 3 months. The conservative movement and the BC Liberals would be happier to get rid of him and trigger another leadership race, causing untold turmoil both emotionally and financially for the New Democrats.
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Rating: -3
DavidH
@ Shepsil: You're quite correct. The best thing for the BC Liberals and the BC Conservatives is an NDP "beauty contest" every few years, with the crown transferred to the newest, untested saviour.

In the corporate world, reactionary (knee-jerk) replacement of a CEO is viewed by shareholders as counter-productive. Even the coaches of sport teams are usually granted more than one losing season before management gets antsy.

But the NDP is developing a reputation for knee-jerk, antsy responses.

I hope that Dix runs again for the leadership and wins - on a specific platform of lessons-learned and a detailed strategic plan for the party. If that platform and plan includes acknowledgement of fault, then he is probably the right person for the job. There is currently nobody else on the radar who could do better.
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Rating: -2
DavidH
I don't mind people who choose to support the BC "Liberals" after they've looked carefully at actual policy and performance. The people I dislike are the ones who can't distinguish fact from party fiction and base their votes on pure, unsubstantiated nonsense.

Take Arthur Vandelay for instance. Now there's a character who describes Glen Clark's government as an "epic failure", even though Gordon Campbell's reign was even worse - based on established fact, not party fiction.

Clark had a "deck fiasco". Campbell had a "drunk driving fiasco". Clark wore the "fast ferry fiasco". Campbell wears the convention centre and BC Place roof fiascos ... not to mention the hidden, massive deficit that produced the failed HST. The list could go on and on and on.

And in the end, Clark (socialist premier) went on to a successful business career in the private sector working for BC's most prominent free-enterpriser. Campbell (business premier) was sent off to London to live in pure luxury at taxpayer expense. Ironic, eh?

Informed people can debate the relative merits of Christy Clark vs Adrian Dix, or Adrian Dix vs Mike Farnsworth. But finding rational, informed voters in BC is almost a futile quest. See: Arthur Vandalism.
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Rating: -15
Arthus Vandelay
@DavidH - Fact: the PEOPLE OF BC judged the Clark regime an epic failure by rendering a 77-2 decision.

Fact: This election result was the worst loss in BC history and 2nd worst in Canadian history.

Fact: You talk out of your ass a lot and sell it as informed debate. My guess is few, if any, are buying it.
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Rating: -3
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