VICTORIA - Adrian Dix says he was driving home one night from a political meeting in Campbell River on Vancouver Island when he experienced what he calls a therapeutic and completely spontaneous moment with Bob Dylan.
"I don't know what happened, something happened during the day," said Dix in an interview. He wouldn't say why he was in need of an existential lift, but that day was during his run for the NDP leadership and it hadn't gone well.
"So, I'm driving down the road and Positively 4th Street comes on the radio — which is a really hard song — and I have to say, I sang that song out loud with Bob Dylan that day."
"That is not my favourite (Dylan) song, but I remember it being slightly therapeutic," says Dix who says he has seen Dylan in concert at least eight times and counts the singer as one of his favourite artists.
The first verse of the song goes like this: "You got a lotta nerve/To say you are my friend/When I was down/You just stood there grinning."
The image of Adrian Dix singing out loud in his car, getting balm from the music for some undefined pain, does not jive with his political persona as a well-informed, policy-driven, leftwing campaigner who would rather debate the latest employment numbers than belt out classic rock anthems.
The crooning Dix also doesn't fit with the character judgments put forth by the B.C. Liberals and their supporters who have served notice they intend to publicly question his credibility during the campaign.
Dix's decision to rewrite a crucial political memo that eventually led to his forced departure from backroom politics in the 1990s and contributed to the eventual resignation of former premier Glen Clark is set to be retold by Liberals and their supporters constantly through the campaign.
Dix's opponents have also pointed to Dix's failure to pay for a transit ticket as a character flaw.
"I think one of the things people like about me is I own my mistakes," said Dix, who repeatedly said during his April 2011 leadership campaign it was a mistake to back-date the memo that said the then-premier told him he wanted no part of a casino licence application by a friend of Clark's.
"I don't make excuses," said Dix recently. "I don't say someone else did this and therefore mine isn't as bad. The Liberals have now spent in the millions of dollars talking about these issues. That's what they think is important."
Dix, 48, was first elected in 2005 in his Vancouver-Kingsway riding, previously held by the NDP's Clark. His wife, Renee Saklikar, is a poet and writer.
Dix had served between 1996 and 1999 as Clark's chief of staff and between 2000 and 2005, he served as the executive director of the B.C.-Yukon branch of Canadian Parents for French.
Dix, who is bilingual, will become B.C.'s first modern-day bilingual premier and perhaps B.C.'s first-ever bilingual premier. Dix has Type-1 diabetes which he manages through daily insulin injections.
He said his significant personal achievements include his work as Opposition critic for the children's and health ministries and his ability as Opposition leader to focus his caucus on holding the Liberal government to account on issues without resorting to personal attacks.
"I know that I'm not a perfect leader. But I'm very proud of that record," he said.
But Jim Shepard, a former B.C. mining industry executive and adviser to Premier Christy Clark, said British Columbians need to be reminded of Dix's memo episode.
Shepard is heading the pro-Clark Concerned Citizens for B.C. lobby group that has been raising money to launch a media campaign that includes radio, television and print ads critical of Dix's character.
"We only want to make sure people understand what they are going to be getting if they elect Adrian Dix as premier," said Shepard. "We will be putting out whatever facts we think are relevant that you should be thinking about if you are going to consider who's going to be the next premier of this province."
Shepard said Dix's decision to back-date the Glen Clark memo to protect the former premier indicates the NDP leader does not have enough discipline to succeed as a business and political leader.
Former B.C. NDP leader Carole James said Dix leads by example through his incredible work ethic and determination to accomplish goals.
James said she was preparing to quit politics after an internal party feud over her leadership became public and prompted her to resign her leadership in 2010 rather than cause even deeper party wounds just as the NDP was starting to seriously challenge the Liberals, who were then led by former premier Gordon Campbell.
Dix supported James's leadership throughout the feud, but after she left, he ran and won the party leadership.
James said Dix made it clear to her after he won the leadership race in April 2011, he wanted her to stay in politics and play a strong role in his NDP team.
James said she waited and watched and quickly came to realize Dix was bringing the fractured NDP caucus together and was getting everybody to move in the same direction.
"He's not looking at politics as a game," she said. "He's looking at the opportunity to make a difference and I've seen that drive and I've seen that passion in him and that's what really keeps me going and that's what keeps me in this caucus.
James said Dix does not spend a lot of time rousing people into action with motivational speeches.
"What I've learned about Adrian is you will not hear Adrian talking a lot about his own personal leadership," she said. "Adrian leads by showing and leads by doing. What I see that Adrian does is he puts his head down and he gets on with the work."
James said when she was NDP leader she appointed Dix to the difficult post of children and families ministry critic, but he seized the opportunity and prompted major changes in the government's handling child welfare files.
Dix almost single-handedly forced the Liberals to admit early in their mandate that government cuts hurt their efforts to protect vulnerable children and his questions about the government's failure to adequately investigate child deaths prompted a coroner's inquest into the violent death of Port Alberni toddler Sherry Charlie, and the subsequent appointment of the Independent Representative for Children and Youth, Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond.
University of Victoria political science Prof. James Lawson said what most impresses him about Dix has been his ability to keep the NDP caucus working together and united — at least in public — after the public battle over James.
"That's an important quality in a leader of a political party," Lawson said. "After all the discomfort around the internal coup that unseated Carole James, and all that internal discontent, we see Carole James still participating fully in the caucus."
But Independent MLA Bob Simpson, dumped from the NDP by James and viewed as one of the first discontents in the James caucus, said he has had political disagreements with Dix and is no fan of his current strategy to win the election.
"He's a very astute politician and a very astute tactician and strategist," said Simpson. "Where Adrian and I disagreed was the purpose of politics and tactics and strategy because he fundamentally believes the only way the NDP wins government is by saying as little as possible and hoping like heck that whoever happens to be the right wing party at the time does themselves in and the NDP gets government by default."
Simpson said Dix's strategy of staying positive in the campaign involves standing back and allowing the Liberals to crumble on their own. Simpson said he argued often with Dix that positive politics means putting forward policies and ideas the public can debate.
But Dix said staying positive means focusing on issues and holding the Liberals to account even though they've decided to use personal attacks as one of their primary weapons.
"We have a very different idea of strategy and tactics," he said. "We are going to hold them accountable of course and assess, on the substance, their record, but we're not going to run personal attacks."
Dix joked at the Victoria NDP rally that some of the Liberal attack ads scared his mother, but that still hasn't provoked him to respond negatively.
After the rally, Dix unwound by spending as much time talking about sports and music as election debate ethics, attack ads and student loans. Dix freely admitted to being a sports fanatic who will watch any sporting event on TV, be it championship darts or football.
He even found ways to link sports and politics, espousing how globalization put one of Vancouver's favourite cultural events of the 1960s to 1980s, the former weekly professional All-Star Wrestling cards, into submission.
"I have a whole theory about wrestling and globalization," said Dix, who admits that in his youth he was a regular at the PNE Gardens where the fights were broadcast.
Dix, who names wrestlers such as Gene Kiniski, Don Leo Jonathan and Eric Froelich, as among his boyhood heroes, said when the cable TV companies started broadcasting major wrestling events, local wrestling communities like Vancouver's could no longer compete.
"In a way globalization ruined the local wrestling," he said. "It took jobs and it's a metaphor for what happens sometimes in the local economy. I'm suggesting, perhaps, in the future we'll buy our wrestling locally."
The closest he comes to taking a shot at the Liberals during his Victoria rally is warn his supporters against taking the Liberals, who are portraying themselves as underdogs, too lightly.
"Let me tell you, we’re always the underdogs," said Dix. "They have more money. They are the incumbents. This is going to be a tough election. We’re going to take the hard road to victory."
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