With Christy Clark trying not to appear as a lame-duck premier, NDP leader Adrian Dix has been doing his best not to put his foot in his mouth in the run-up to the 2013 election.
It’s interesting to compare and contrast Dix’s situation with that of Victoria-Beacon Hill MLA Carole James, his predecessor as leader.
James took the reins of the B.C. NDP in 2003, when people were getting wise to the Gordon Campbell Liberals’ strategy of gutting the public service to balance the budget. James pledged to build a broader base of support for her party, which was still feeling the sting of being annihilated in the 2001 provincial election.
With anti-Liberal sentiment growing, the strategy seemed to work. In 2005, the NDP went from two seats to 33 and people began to talk of the once-vanquished party forming government in 2009.
But James, doing her best to bridge the gap between big labour and big business, couldn’t get the party over the political hump. As such, she was unceremoniously given the boot in late 2010.
Dix, the longtime party strategist and premier-in-waiting by most accounts, wants to please enough voters to gain a majority in the legislature. But he runs the risk of pleasing no one through giving little detail about his party’s stance on such key issues as oil pipelines, labour contracts and welfare rates.
He’s politically fortunate that the popularity of Clark and the B.C. Liberals’ is low – even lower than when James was NDP leader.
Dix hasn’t been completely silent on policy. During a speech to a business group last month in Vancouver, he showed nerve by pledging to raise corporate taxes if his party forms the next B.C. government. That sounds like the NDP of old, the party line from which James was so keen to distance herself and the NDP, in trying to appeal to more voters.
We hope for more policy pronouncements from Dix in the near future. Waiting to lay out his platform, so as not to alienate voters, makes him just as lame as Clark appears to be.