Making the private public is Dix's biggest challenge

"Unknown, unpublicized, un-everything. It is just the way Dix prefers things." That's how reporter Keith Baldrey began his 1997 BC Business magazine profile of Adrian Dix, who was then Premier Glen Clark's chief of staff. Fourteen years later, Mr. Dix's laudable work as the opposition's child protection and later health services critic is anything but unpublicized. However, even though he's now running for one of the most public positions in the province - leader of the New Democrats and British Columbia's official opposition - he continues to be reluctant to discuss his private motivations for being in politics.

"Dix refuses to open up to almost anyone," Mr. Baldrey had earlier reported. "People who have worked with him for a half-dozen years scratch their heads when asked what makes him tick."

That's an experience I'm now familiar with.

The closest I came to finding an answer to that question was when Mr. Dix, who is now the MLA for Vancouver-Kingsway, told me during a recent 45-minute interview how his interest in politics came from his parent's interest in politics.

His insurance agent father, Mr. Dix said, had previously lived in Dublin, Ireland and Sudbury, Ontario - communities with deep political tensions.

In Dublin, it's the Protestants versus the Roman Catholics. In Sudbury, it's management versus the unions.

But when asked whether those tensions informed his own views, the born-and-raised Vancouverite pointed out his mother was "much more of a federal Liberal."

As for his own position on the political spectrum, a former endorser recently described Mr. Dix to me as the New Democrats' "most left-wing" leadership candidate.

But when asked to place himself on that spectrum, the MLA said "I don't try to define myself on a political spectrum."

"My defining belief in politics - what I fight for and what many people in the NDP fight for - is equality, the right of everyone to live a good life and achieve their dreams."

Such opaqueness isn't peculiar to Mr. Dix, who is one of three heavy-weight candidates looking to succeed party leader Carole James.

For example, when I asked Ms. James a similar question in 2003, she said: "Well, people try and put labels on things. And I'm not a believer in labels for people."

But Mr. Dix's opaqueness, which supporters would say is just shyness, becomes especially problematic for him when coupled with a seeming tendency to dodge rather than answer questions on the defensive.

It serves as a reminder of when he was caught faking a memo for his former boss Mr. Clark.

Nevertheless, Mr. Dix doesn't seem to have sufficiently addressed that vulnerability.

That came through during a recent controversy over party membership forms submitted by his supporters.

Competing leadership candidate Harry Lali had alleged thousands of those forms didn't have the membership payment attached as required.

Asked about the veracity of those allegations, which were later confirmed by the party's provincial secretary, Mr. Dix said, "The rules are going to be applied. You can certainly ask the campaign about all those things."

But wait just a minute!

"Aren't you intrinsically linked to the campaign?" questioned The Vancouver Sun's Jonathan Fowlie. "You're referring us to the campaign..."

"I'm not referring you to the campaign," Mr. Dix interrupted. "I'm standing here answering questions."

"No. We asked you the question. You said, 'Ask the campaign.'"

"Yeah, ask the campaign," said the candidate.

This opaqueness and apparent evasiveness are among the most significant personal challenges confronting Mr. Dix's bid to become the next leader of the New Democrats.

And those challenges will become more acute should he be successful in that bid, given the importance of personality politics during general elections.

But whether Mr. Dix is capable of letting himself be known as well as publicized, remains to be seen.

4 Comments

Dix is very much a hard left politician.

Harry is well known for his inflammatory comments. If the Dix campaign has broken any rules, the people doing the checking will let us know. Baldry, the Liberal big supporter, is not the one I would go to for balanced reporting. Balrdy doesn't get to vote, but a lot of us do. As does harry, who will, after a suitable waiting time support one of the candidates

I think Dix has been a spin-meister for so long, he's forgotten how to give an answer that is not spin. Over the past 20 or so years, the public has become sensitive to this and have figured out when they are being told something of substance and when they are being evaded. Politicians like Dix need to grow up and start talking directly instead of out of the sides of their mouths. It's not only unsavory, politically, it doesn't work. "Publicized" instead of "public" is a very good way of putting it. Just because someone is on the news every night -- like Dix is, trying to make the Liberals look bad -- does not mean they are well-liked and does not necessarily mean they are gaining votes for their team.

I think Baldrey's criticism of Dix is a bit much. All of the candidates spin the message. They do it in spades in the liberals party just listen to Christy talk about the NDP. Just because Dix won't play Baldrey's game and won't let him control the interview and how has his knickers in a twist, we should get worried?

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