Adrian Dix is stepping down as leader of the B.C. New Democratic Party, saying he is putting the long-term success of the party ahead of any personal ambitions he may have had.
"It has become clear to me that the best interests of our party mean that I need to step aside for a new leader who can lead us to victory in 2017," Dix told reporters gathered in downtown Vancouver this afternoon.
"I intend to remain as leader until such time as the party can hold a leadership vote to choose a new leader. It is my hope that a leadership vote can be held by mid-2014 at the very latest."
Dix's future has been the subject of much speculation since May, when the NDP lost to Christy Clark's BC Liberals in an election it was widely expected to win.
Waiting to start the news conference, Dix said over the past few months he's read many blog posts, tweets and articles, some saying they can't win with him and he has to go, others saying he should get another chance. "Never in my life have I felt so much empathy for Roberto Luongo," he joked.
Dix said he intends to stay as an MLA and "absolutely" intends to run in Vancouver-Kingsway in 2017, but will not enter the NDP leadership race.
Loss was my responsibility: Dix
"I have always believed very strongly that politics is not about politicians or leaders themselves, but about the people we represent and the change we hope to bring to British Columbia," Dix said, adding it has been a privilege to lead the party and work with the caucus.
"That we fell short on election day is my responsibility as leader," he said.
Dix became leader in April 2011, replacing Carole James, who was forced out by infighting within the NDP caucus. He defeated runner-up MLA Mike Farnworth by 677 votes. MLA John Horgan and pro-marijuana activist Dana Larsen were eliminated in the first two rounds of voting. MLAs Harry Lali and Nicholas Simons also entered the race, but dropped out before NDP members voted.
Dix campaigned on higher taxes for corporations, ending the HST, boosting funding for education and using the carbon tax to fund environmental initiatives.
More than anything, however, he framed himself as the substantive alternative to premier of "style" Christy Clark.
Farnworth considering leadership bid
"I think Adrian made the right decision. He always said he'd put the interests of the party first, and I think he's done that," said Farnworth, who following Dix's announcement was outside the Vancouver Convention Centre where the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention is underway.
"Caucus is behind him 100 per cent in his decision," Farnworth said.
Dix's departure presents an opportunity for renewal and will allow for a positive and constructive convention in November, he said.
Farnworth said he is considering another run at the leadership. "I'm going to be talking with my colleagues and talking with my members of the party, because to me what's important is that the next leader has the ability to lead to the next election."
"I think in the end he's demonstrated real leadership, that he's put the party ahead of anything," said Jenny Kwan, the MLA for Vancouver-Mount Pleasant. Kwan said she won't enter the leadership race because being available for her two young children is her top priority.
"I think, as others have said, he always put the party first, and I have absolute confidence that's at the core of what he's decided," said Norm Macdonald, MLA for Columbia River-Revelstoke. "Adrian's done a great job for us. I'm really pleased he's going to be there as leader until we choose a new leader."
Liberal voters united against NDP
Pundits attributed the upset in the provincial election to Dix's reluctance to focus negative attention on the Liberal record and his inability to give voters a strong NDP narrative. Platform announcements throughout the campaign were, in the words of former NDP MLA Ian Waddell, largely "tepid."
Today, Dix listed various factors that he says contributed to the party's defeat.
"What we see in our province is increasing inequality," said Dix. The party needs to shift so it adjusts to the province's changing demographics, he said, including recognizing that many working people who lose their jobs leave the province and that many young people are self-employed.
"When people lose their jobs in communities, they don't stay and vote, they have to move," he said. "These are real challenges for us."
Liberal voters were united in the election around not liking the NDP, he said. "Our [NDP] voters have together, I think, some differences within our universe on issues, so those present challenges. They're not insurmountable."
Dix criticized the Liberals for running a negative campaign that had no message and only talked about one set of private sector projects.
"They united the election around a negative campaign," he said, saying the NDP treated its opponents and voters with respect. "You can't govern the province in the negative, you have to govern in the positive, and our approach is going to serve us well in the long run."
Read more: BC Politics