Among the three perceived frontrunners in the NDP leadership contest, only Adrian Dix speaks to core New Democrat values, which can reinvigorate the party, say two political scientists.
In separate phone interviews with the Straight, UVic’s Dennis Pilon and Langara’s Peter Prontzos also indicated that the Vancouver-Kingsway MLA has greatest potential to get people excited again about politics.
“I think a lot of the New Democrats feel that the party is constantly apologizing for its ideas; it’s constantly suggesting that it’s not going to be what other people say it is,” Pilon said.
According to the UVic political science professor, Dix is like his ex-boss and former B.C. premier Glen Clark, who was good in reaching out to the NDP base by striking on key themes like “the rich are getting off easy”.
“Dix is effective like Clark was effective in really speaking to issues,” Pilon said. “And I think Dix is absolutely right to say New Democrats should stop apologizing for their record because you know if they keep avoiding that question, it will never go away.”
Pilon said that the two other frontrunners—Mike Farnworth and John Horgan—are close policy-wise to former leader Carole James, “which is this kind of cuddle up to business: 'Let’s talk friendly to these people who are never going to support the party'.”
“In that sense, I think they repeat what Dix is kind of challenging, which is get up off your knees, let’s defend ourselves, and what our vision is for the province,” he said.
Pilon also said that “by standing up and saying some people in this province are getting the shaft”, Dix can bring “a lot of people who felt no one is talking about them back to politics”.
Prontzos, who has ran provincially and federally for the NDP, said the race is “shaping [up] primarily between people who want to continue the same path the NDP has taken under Carole James”.
“Although he wasn’t one of the dissidents, I think Adrian Dix is trying to move in a more progressive direction,” Prontzos said. “I think that’s probably the most interesting dynamic.”
According to the Langara political science instructor, Dix’s strong emphasis on addressing inequality is very encouraging.
“Not only is inequality a moral dilemma, but it correlates to every kind of social ill you could think of—whether were talking about homelessness, teenage pregnancies, crime, murder rates, obesity, child mortality, dropout rates,” he said. “About every negative social indicator you could think is clearly correlated with social inequality.”
According to Prontzos, candidates like Farnworth are apparently taking the line that as long as conditions are made right for business to prosper, everybody else will benefit.
“Pursuing the sort of centrist or even small ”˜l’ Liberal approach that Carole James did certainly didn’t work out,” Prontzos said. “Given that the NDP has to go up against the larger contributions and campaign chest that the Liberals have, and with their media disadvantages, as well, rather than saying [they] were Liberals with a heart, they should actually show some leadership and inspire people—especially people who don’t vote, not because they’re apathetic but because they don’t see a huge difference perhaps between the Liberals and the NDP.”