Dix will stay, review campaign

The leader of British Columbia's New Democrats plans to stay on as head of the Opposition while launching a sweeping review of his party's failed election campaign.

Adrian Dix said he takes "full responsibility" for last week's election loss, and he promised to get to the bottom of what happened.

"We didn't win, and disappointment doesn't describe how that feels," Dix told a news conference Wednesday in Vancouver in his first formal comments since election night.

"We will undertake a comprehensive review of this election. ... This review will spare nothing and no one, least of all me. This will not be a simple internal review."

Specifically, Dix said he failed to effectively criticize the Liberal government's record; he failed to communicate his party's platform to the public; and his mid-campaign announcement that he opposed a proposed Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion hurt his campaign.

Despite those failings, Dix said he would stay on as leader in the short-term - while leaving his longer-term future uncertain.

"I think that we elected a very strong team - we need stability right now," said Dix, who said he was committed to doing everything he could to ensure the NDP has a better chance of winning the next election in 2017.

"It's not simply what I want. It is the case that leaders have lost elections in the past and went on to win the next election. It's not what I want - it's what the party wants."

The May 14 election was Dix's first as leader, but the fourth campaign the party has lost since the Liberals took power in 2001.

The NDP ended up with 33 of the province's 85 seats - two fewer than when the campaign began - and 39 per cent of the popular vote. The Liberals won in 50 ridings, compared with 45 seats before the election began.

The New Democrats scored a symbolic victory by defeating Premier Christy Clark in her own riding, but beyond that there was little to celebrate.

High-profile New Democrats were defeated in areas considered traditional NDP territory, and two ridings in the Fraser Valley that the party won in byelections last year returned to the Liberals.

There has already been much speculation about why the NDP failed to realize what many within the party believed was a sure win, beyond the obvious conclusion that the opinion polls may have simply been wrong.

Dix insisted on running a positive campaign without resorting to personal attacks against Clark and her party, but that left him with few options to respond to a barrage of Liberal attacks that included unflattering comparisons to Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez.

His mid-campaign decision to oppose a pipeline expansion proposed by Kinder Morgan, despite having previously insisted it would be irresponsible to prejudge the project so early, fed accusations the NDP was a party of job-killing, anti-development radicals who would lay waste to the province's economy.

The party's election platform focused on incremental change - "one practical step at a time," in Dix's words - that in many ways failed to significantly distinguish the New Democrats from the Liberals. Both parties included tax increases on corporations and high-income residents to fund modest spending.

Dix claimed the Liberals' recent balanced budget was an illusion, in an apparent attempt to justify his own party's plans for several years of deficit spending.

The Liberals also resurrected a 15-year-old scandal that cost Dix his job as deputy premier when he backdated a memo in an attempt to exonerate his boss, then-premier Glen Clark, in a casino-licensing scandal.

During the televised leaders' debate, Dix attempted to explain the memo affair by noting he was 35 years old at the time, which only added fodder for yet another Liberal attack ad.

Despite the election loss, there have been no public calls from within the party for Dix to resign, and Dix did not address the issue on election night or in the days that followed.

Last week, the party's president, Moe Sihota, said he believed Dix should continue to lead the party, warning against a "revolving door" of leaders.

Dix's predecessor, Carole James, led the party through two election losses, and even after the second, in 2009, she did not step down.

It wasn't until a messy internal revolt in late 2010 that James resigned, setting off the leadership race that eventually saw Dix ascend into the leader's office.

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