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‘It’s about appealing to people': Dix
Shortly after 8 p.m. on Saturday night, provincial New Democrat leader Adrian Dix found himself in a bit of a duel. For a pair of tickets to the Vancouver Opera.
The bidding started at $100 and moved quickly. Former North Vancouver federal NDP candidate Michael Charrois, a professional actor, provided the rapid-fire auctioneering.
Dix was up, and then he was down. When the bids hit $160, he was in the lead. His only opponents, a couple seated at a table a few steps to the left of Charrois, hesitated slightly. Should they? Shouldn’t they?
They did. The bids jumped to $170, $175 and then $190 before the couple upped the ante one last time. With a $200 offer, the tickets landed just out of Dix’s reach.
Considering the participant, the back and forth proved an interesting exchange. In some ways, the seesaw nature of an auction is a lot like politics. Bidding, like voting, is encouraged. Lead changes should be expected. And only when the final submission is counted is the thing over.
But unlike the lighthearted race for an evening at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre, neither Dix nor his party have seen much of second place lately. In April, two byelection wins in Port Moody-Coquitlam and Chilliwack-Hope, the latter of which never before won by an NDP candidate, dominated headlines and thrust the NDP well ahead of the second-place BC Liberals in the polls.
According to an Angus Reid poll published in May, half of the province’s decided voters said they’d vote for the NDP, more than twice those who said they’d go with the Liberals.
And then there was this week’s Ipsos Reid poll that showed Dix, for the first time with a leadership advantage over Premier Christy Clark. Dix has a 50 per cent approval rating, Clark 33 per cent. He’s also considered the best choice for premier, coming in with 31 per cent support, while Clark garnered 25 per cent.
Good news for a man who’s ultimate political dreams rest on the support of the public. But the provincial election is just less than a year a way. Does Dix pay attention to polls, positive or not, this far out?
“Yes,” he says, with a quick pause.
“To the extent that they’re obviously important to the way people cover politics. But I question in this day in age if they’re telling us the public mood. My constituency [Vancouver-Kingsway] is very diverse. For instance, 48 per cent of the residents don’t speak English at home. That can be hard to tackle if a pollster doesn’t acknowledge that.”
And overconfidence isn’t exactly symptomatic of the New Democrats, he adds. The party’s won three of the past 21 elections, not the most stellar of success rates. But the public, he stresses, is looking for new leadership “and the NDP represents that.”
Then how does the party plan to continue representing that apparent interest in change? A few missteps have changed many a political fortune. And attack ads — for instance, the “Risky Dix” campaign launched earlier this year by the Liberals — have proven successful pieces of the election puzzle in other races.
How does Dix suppose he and the NDP can best avoid any game-changing gaffes and the power of television? Is there a defence that can handle both?
“It’s about appealing to people, bringing them back into the process. The political process has lost the participant. Clark and the Liberals spent $1-$2 million on attack ads, but that doesn’t bring people back,” says Dix.
“I don’t want to do that. We have to engage young people but right now, they don’t see in the political process the change they want. Part of it is the inability of politicians to disagree in public without a problem. I disagree with Clark on issues as long as my arm and your arm. But for too long we’ve had a nasty debate about too little. We will continue to run a positive campaign and that will force the Liberals to run one too.”