Bobby Deepak is wrong to want to go slow and careful about deciding the future of Adrian Dix as leader of the B.C. NDP after May's shocking defeat in the provincial election.
Deepak, a local labour lawyer, was the candidate in Prince George-Mackenzie last May and was certainly one of the best candidates the NDP put forward north of Kamloops. Yet he insists his party shouldn't hastily boot Dix to the curb. Instead, he argues, the party needs to shape its vision for the future before deciding what to do about Dix.
"We're putting the cart before the horse when we're saying we need to change leadership without knowing what direction the party is going," Deepak said.
The analogy of the cart and horse, however, is off-base.
Card-carrying members of any political party set the future direction of the party by the very act of choosing a leader. Members get behind the candidate that puts forward the best direction for the party and gives the party the best chance to win following that vision. An internal debate about what the party stands for and its vision for the future only means something unless it occurs within the context of a leadership race. In the same way, debates about the future of the city, the province and the country are mere chatter until an election is called, when voters get the opportunity to assess their options and choose for themselves.
Deepak already knows this but he won't accept it.
When he put out a call on his Facebook page last month, asking friends and followers what Dix should do, the overwhelmingly response was for Dix to step down. That result supported what Deepak admitted he had already been hearing in the community.
During the Prince George Citizen/CKPG all-candidates debate at UNBC, Deepak took off his cordial candidate hat and put on his tough and aggressive lawyer helmet. While he didn't score a knockout punch against Mike Morris of the Liberals, Deepak won the toe-to-toe slugfest on points with his knowledge, his sharp tongue and his quick responses.
In fact, Deepak identified Dix's unwillingness to do the same thing - to get rough and put his foot down on the throat of Christy Clark and the B.C. Liberals when he had the chance - as one of the fatal flaws of the provincial campaign, along with the ridiculous and unnecessary announcement of the NDP's opposition to the proposed expansion of the Kinder Morgan pipeline from Alberta to the Lower Mainland. That announcement played right into the hands of Clark and the Liberals, who spent the rest of the campaign hammering the NDP as "anti-jobs" and the "party of no."
Deepak is right when he says the NDP should have run a more traditional campaign, staying on the attack throughout the election, rather than sticking to a clean, high-brow and rational plea to voters.
"I think the people of British Columbia should have been reminded of the Liberal record and I think in an election that is what every party should be doing to show why you are the better party," he said. "If you don't remind people why they shouldn't vote for this other party, then it sort of defeats the purpose of you running."
Those are harsh but true words and there is only one person who can take full responsibility for them and that is Dix. Meanwhile, Deepak doesn't have to look far to find the kind of campaign he would have liked the NDP to run. Christy Clark openly stated throughout the election that she and her party weren't perfect but they were better than Dix and the NDP, before listing a handful of simple reasons why that was the case and then repeating those reasons over and over.
Whether it's before a judge, an arbitrator or voters, Deepak clearly understands that playing to win requires both making a great case for yourself and ripping your opponent to shreds. Dix, however, clearly demonstrated his weakness in the former and his inability to do the latter.
Deepak's loyalty to his leader is commendable but ultimately harmful to the NDP. If the party wants to learn from the 2013 election and be more successful four years from now, it needs to get busy addressing its problems, starting with the leader.