VICTORIA - Adrian Dix says the race to replace him as New Democratic Party leader will heat up in January and most of the candidates are likely to come from the current party caucus.
Dix, in a year-end interview with The Canadian Press, says he's not naming names and won't back a candidate, but he expects currently elected provincial New Democrats to dominate the field.
"I think there's going to be great candidates from the current caucus," said Dix. "This is the strongest NDP caucus we've had in a long time. There are a significant number of caucus members who are in a position, I think, to run and win the leadership."
But, so far, no current member of the NDP caucus has officially declared their candidacy. Only current NDP house leader John Horgan, a former leadership candidate, has said he won't run.
Current NDP finance critic Mike Farnworth, who was runner-up to Dix as leader in April 2011, has said he's interested in running for leader, but has not made an official announcement.
Former union leader George Heyman and legal advocate David Eby are also expected to run. Other New Democrats said to be considering their candidacy are Rob Fleming and Judy Darcy.
"I think they have a significant advantage, caucus members," Dix said. "They're elected and they know the job and they know the position. But I expect to see other candidates as well."
Dix said the potential candidacy of federal party members has generated publicity.
But he said that he believes the coming 2015 federal election will keep most MPs committed to federal politics.
So far, B.C. NDP MPs Nathan Cullen, Peter Julian and Fin Donnelly have said thanks, but no thanks, to the job opening.
"When I read those stories, it was my strong guess they wouldn't be candidates, ultimately and they weren't," Dix said.
Lower Mainland NDP MPs Kennedy Stewart and Jinny Sims are said to be still considering entering the race.
Dix said he doesn't consider it odd that nobody has officially entered the race, even though he announced he'd step down more than four months ago.
Dix said when Opposition NDP Leader Dave Barrett lost to Social Credit Leader Bill Bennett back in 1983, it took more than a year to replace him with Bob Skelly. And when Skelly lost the 1986 election, it took the NDP more than a year to replace him with Mike Harcourt, said Dix.
He said the timing of the leadership contest, set last month for September 2014, is also a major reason why candidates have not officially entered the race.
"It's very hard to be a candidate for the leadership for that length of time, and that's one of the reasons why you haven't seen announcements so far," Dix said. "But the race will get going and it's going to be a good race."
Dix said he plans to stay in politics as the MLA for Vancouver-Kingsway, working under the new NDP leader.
"I think you can drive change from the Opposition side," he said. "It's not as easy. It's not what you would prefer. I was disappointed on May 14, but I got up on May 15, all the same, and started doing my job. That's what I'm going to do."
Dix can be forgiven if he wants to get past 2013 and move on with 2014.
One moment, the election victory speech was being rehearsed; the next, a shaken Dix was on stage delivering a concession speech about an election loss that has most New Democrats in British Columbia still wondering, "What happened?"
Dix entered last April's election campaign with what was believed to be a solid 20-point lead, but that disappeared on election night, leaving Dix alone on a Vancouver stage to congratulate Premier Christy Clark and her Liberals for their fourth consecutive mandate.
Dix also recently lost his father, Ken.
Last September, he announced he would give up the NDP leadership as soon as the party picked a new leader.
At last month's NDP convention, Dix told delegates, significant communication mistakes during the election campaign helped to inspire the Liberal campaign.
Dix said one mistake was his decision to choose Earth Day last April, near the mid-point of the campaign, to outline the NDP’s opposition to the proposed Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion and the plan to increase oil tanker traffic in the port of Vancouver.
Many considered the Kinder Morgan announcement the turning point of the campaign because it alienated traditional NDP voters. Dix called it a mistake and said he acted too quickly.
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