It's official: Dix stepping down as BC NDP leader next year

Rafe: Farnworth favorite to replace Adrian Dix as LNG hurts Horgan

It's official: Dix stepping down as BC NDP leader next year
The BC NDP’s outgoing leader, Adrian Dix (photo: BCGEU)

Today’s decision by Adrian Dix to step down as BC NDP leader, pending a leadership election next year, comes as no surprise. The good news for Mr. Dix – to be a bit catty for the moment – is that he stays as Leader of the Opposition, with the salary that goes with it, until some time in 2014.

That he had to resign based on history doesn’t stand up – Gordon Campbell blew the 1996 election, stayed on and became the worst premier in our history. Right wing parties, until Mr. Vander Zalm, have always circled the wagons and – to mix a couple of metaphors – refrained from eating their own whelp.

For the NDP, however, self-immolation is traditional.

This announcement gives the NDP time to focus on its leadership to come, and the party has never been very good at that. The reason is simple: the NDP is a party of principles – which is not to say that any of those principles make any sense  – whereas right wing parties concentrate on winning and let other principles be damned.

The business community doesn’t give a fiddler’s fart what the leader stands for as long as he is being friendly to business at all costs. You will remember how, right after Campbell became premier in 2011, he gave a billion dollars in tax “relief” to the well off.

Replacing Adrian Dix

The candidates for succession to the slightly-less-than-enviable prize that the NDP nest of adders is, are several  – and we may not even know the names of some of them by the time the contest gets seriously out of the starting gate.

The two favourites at this stage are Mike Farnworth and John Horgan. I mention that Mr. Farnworth is gay only because that will be – and perhaps should be – a plus in a party that prides itself on its openness to minorities. Whether or not this bears any electoral problems, I can’t say – it shouldn’t. In addition, Mr. Farnworth has had experience in cabinet, including the senior post as Health Minister. He is also – and this is important  – liked and respected both in and out of his party.

John Horgan is certainly intelligent but has a temper. A tempered temper, so to speak, may be just what the party needs. He carries with him, however, a conviction that might be hard for the NDP to support in the days to come . He supports, evidently without serious reservations, the Liberals’ vision for Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) plants – plus the pipelines and fracking that go with them. Since this is the only hope the Liberals have for 2017, that makes things awkward for an NDP leader who agrees with them.

It’s also a problem for the third name always mentioned – George Heyman, former labour leader and former executive director of the environmental organization, the Sierra Club in BC. Heyman’s first problem is he’s not popular with the union movement who believe he laid down when Campbell legislated his members back to work.

His second problem is that he’s an untested rookie and, since the leadership contest will likely be before the Legislature goes back in session, will still be unbloodied before the leadership convention.

There will be others. Somehow dust gets sprinkled into the eyes of no-hopers who always visualize a deadlocked convention with them, somehow, coming up the middle to win – something that rarely happens. The last one I can recall – and this was before conventions were stacked with 24-hour members – was Joe Clark in 1976.

Horgan’s LNG problems

I believe that the odds on favourite will be Farnworth. He’s popular with the caucus and the party and that’s pretty important, to put it mildly. But more importantly, he will be able to corner Horgan on the LNG issues – especially over fracking. Horgan, poor chap, is trapped in the policy of the 2013 election when the NDP – if they stood for anything – were for LNG development with a minimum of study.

Now that the Liberals have staked their government’s future on LNG and mythical “Prosperity” funds, being in favour of this will not be a winner at the convention. Horgan will, no doubt, be babbling, “LNG if necessary but not necessarily LNG” – and he’ll have the experienced and popular Farnworth snapping at him from one side and the kid on “the make”, Heyman, on the other. Heyman, that is, with the strong track record opposing fracking.

This, to my mind, makes Farnworth the winner and also guarantees the usual outcome – the NDP squabbling and divided at the end of the process.


About Rafe Mair

Rafe Mair, LL.B, LL.D (Hon) a B.C. MLA 1975 to 1981, was Minister of Environment from late 1978 through 1979. In 1981 he left politics for Talk Radio becoming recognized as one of B.C.'s pre-eminent journalists. An avid fly fisherman, he took a special interest in Atlantic salmon farms and private power projects as environmental calamities and became a powerful voice in opposition to them. Rafe is the co-founder of The Common Sense Canadian and writes a regular blog at

9 thoughts on “Rafe: Farnworth favorite to replace Adrian Dix as LNG hurts Horgan

  1. Cullen or Heyman would be my first choice but its should be Horgan he has the killer instinct we need someone who will grab the Liberals by the throat and squeeze till there is no life left in that brutal party!

  2. Farnworth goes back a long way to when he took CIA-sponsored boondoggles all over the world. That is “experience” the people of B.C. can do without.

  3. Farnsworth would be a disaster in 2017 as he has been around far too long and is stale-dated. The NDP need a fresh face (someone who has not been in the leg for 2 decades), with fresh ideas and with the present crowd i just do not see it. The NDP have been hoisted onto their own petard with their combined politically correct- special interests group oriented party.

    Sorry, the NDP are on a sinking ship, yet the captain and crew are unaware of the impending fiasco.

  4. Here is some damn critical thinking to consider;

    I don’t see any leaders to choose from in the present NDP admin. Every single one of them went along with the failed idea of running a positive campaign. This makes them all guilty of group think and group speak.

    The NDP spends more valuable time running around trying to obtain consensus with the group than anything else.

    This Jamesite clique that currently heads the NDP needs to realize that this is not some nicey nice school board meeting where everyone is respected for their opinion, goofy or not.
    If even one of them had objected to this positive campaign idea and been thrown aside, that would be the one to make leader.

    Like I have stated previously everyone from Sinclair on up needs to go and even including Sinclair the way he shoved his nose up clarks ass recently over the new LNG training nonsense.

    Sinclair mentions “let’s set politics aside” during the LNG training announcements when in actual fact the clark training announcements are nothing but politics from this government as LNG is being shuttered in Australia and possibly other places.

    And they all stand there like the dupes they are. I am really quite embarrassed for them all.
    That is not leadership.

  5. Rafe has analyzed the situation very well. However, don’t forget another challenge the NDP has to consider in 2017, the Green Party. Farnsworth would fare well against the Green Party, Heyman would do better.

    Horgan would be a disaster. I had to take Horgan to task in the last election when he publicly announced that the solution to the pipelines along the BC Coast was a pipeline to the Fraser River instead. Add Horgan’s support for LNG and the NDP would be dead in the oil slick.

  6. While there is and continues to be “opposition” to heavy oil pipelines, Clark’s “positioning” (read:lying) on the issue has helped with the numbers according to recent polling. IOW, People are willing to accept pipelines if “conditions” are met and “monitoring” and other green window dressing is adhered.

    That said, there is much less opposition to the LNG stuff, which was clearly born out in the last election where Clark bet the whole farm on it.

    So its difficult to conceive how Horgan’s ” yes but study” position hurts him. At all.

    There is a lot of talk about a “green powerful” core of the NDP, but this is myth making a pet unicorn if you will of pundits and even some dippers.

    This poll was released during the election and given the results it does not seem to be to far out.

    Note the interior garnered the most concern about fracking yet the pro fracking libs, after attacking the NDP every time they mentioned that we may want to take a closer look at this huge fracking mess, swept the interior.

    The reality is, the NDP will probably regret Dix’s decision today, as no doubt he will swing and swing hard over the coming months and receive good coverage, and even mentions about the NDP making the wrong decision forcing him out. Its what they do.

    Then when the leadership race is in full tilt people will realize that Premier Mike Farnsworth, or Premier George Heyman are things that are never going to happen.

    Horgan is the only one that can carry the ball across the line now, largely because this last election, like it or not, has turned BC into a client state of oil and gas. And oil and gas likes John, Heyman not so much…. and Farnsworth, I bet his position on LNG is not much different than Johns, it at all, however, they still like John better.

    So in the end, Dix could have held things together in a stately fashion, and now there is very few options if the NDP is serious about winning. Horgan is quite frankly the only one and largely because of his position on Fracking.

    You don’t have to like it but its true.

    1. I like Horgan and thought he was the best choice for leader – though his largely unconditional acceptance of LNG and fracking is unfortunate.

      No doubt he’d be a tough opponent for Christy – much more so than Dix ever was.

      That said, Rafe’s point is an important one. LNG was and likely will be the top election issue – which raises the question: how do you differentiate yourself from your opponent when you agree completely with their most significant policy positions?

      Moreover, by election time 2017, after the Liberals have done a giant bellyflop on this looming LNG boondoggle, they WOULD be highly vulnerable on this issue – especially since it cuts to the core of their greatest purported asset, their fiscal and economic competence….Of course, with the NDP going along for the ride, that potential advantage is wiped out. And if they change views down the road, they’ll be labelled as flip-floppers.

      If the NDP are thinking long-term when they choose their next leader, they may do well to consider Rafe’s perspective here, going with someone who isn’t so attached to the sinking ship of Liberal LNG. Every independent piece of economic data I’ve reviewed suggests that’s exactly what will happen here.

      In any event, what the NDP SHOULD do – or what we can logically expect them to do – will likely prove irrelevant as they go about doing what they, as Rafe says, have never been good at: choosing a leader.

      1. Well, first of all its important to tease out the difference between oil and gas speculation, real and achievable projects and the role of government.

        I dont have the Crystal Ball you and Rafe have.

        i cannot see that far into the future.

        That said, in politics things change rapidly. Horgan was and is an important figure in the opposition. However he was not the leader. He barely said anything during the campaign and even the run up.

        Being a party guy and a disciplined sort, I think the position he mouthed was that of the party and not his own position. True, the party’s position publicly differed from its policy books and resolutions passed at convention, but that is not unusual.

        The point I am making is Horgan’s position on and oil gas issues is not a hindrance in electoral terms.

        IT may impact his ability to run for leader as no doubt a significant swath of the party opposes the oil and gas agenda in this Province. And for good reason.

        That said, this last election was very very significant. In fact, there is very little left to oppose in terms of the oil and gas agenda, as it is all pretty much mandated now. Pipelines based on conditions and full bore on LNG, is the mandate the government received.

        So in 2017 (and it may even be too late then) we need to elect a government that stands up for BC amidst massive oil and gas development.

        AS it stands right now, we have nothing that protects us from environmental degradation, no royalty scheme that ensures our ability to keep the lights on let alone prosper and nothing but election rhetoric divorced from reality coming from the current leader.

        Horgan is liked by Oil and Gas, however he is also respected and as everyone knows, is probably one of the best minds we have on these issues.

        So, no doubt that is where 2017 wedge issues will arise.

        Who will actually ensure that oil and gas does not just have its way with us and leave us destitute? Clark? Thats an impossibility because she is mostly clueless about this stuff.

        Horgan? Well, he knows his onions when it comes to these issues and it takes a very apt political operative to be able to ensure that the “state” in which oil and gas operates benefits.

        That is the wedge issue Damien. HOW we do this and WHY. Can we succeed morphing BC into an oil and gas client state? And what will that look like?

        Personally I have grave doubts and have opposed moving in this direction. As it stands today, we are facing a world of hurt. An all pain no gain agenda.

        Horgan is a realist. Obviously stopping the exploits of oil and gas is a monumental challenge, when the government elected is mandated on ensuring their success, its unstoppable.

        So the question remains and will be very relevant in 2017, how do we do it so that we still want to live here. How do we morph into an oil and gas exporter without risking the resource curse, the future of children and the environment we are so dependent on?

        Thats the difference, not speculation about Horgan based on a few public statements shorter than this post I have made, in his role as critic.

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