Now that Adrian Dix has finally decided he's not going to lead the NDP into the next election, the party can get on with healing its internal divisions and trying to figure out just what kind of entity it really is.
For example, is the NDP a political party or a social movement? A group of party members calling themselves "Forward B.C. NDP" has emerged and argues for the former. The group wants to re-energize the party with new blood, and a new team calling the shots from the executive on down.
But standing in their way, at least potentially, is what I call the Romantic Left. These are the types who want to go back to the party's socialist roots and who view any emphasis on such things as sophisticated polling and honing party policies to gain public support through a very dark and suspicious lens.
So that's one internal challenge the party faces.
The other big challenge is for the NDP to establish credibility when it comes to economic issues.
But the party has pushed itself away from being the one that looks out for the interests of blue collar workers, and has instead aligned itself with the environmental wing that opposes so many of the projects that create blue collar jobs.
The importance of this shift cannot be underestimated. It has allowed the B.C. Liberals under Premier Christy Clark a free ride into cloaking itself as the "jobs party."
The recent provincial election, in many ways, turned on this very issue. Dix's sudden and arbitrary announcement that the NDP opposed the Kinder Morgan pipeline project is a perfect example of the NDP abandoning the blue collar worker in favour of the urban, white collar worker who doesn't see (or care) about the connection between the natural resource sector and paycheques in this province.
In his desperate bid to ensure victory in a couple of ridings on the west side of Vancouver, he killed any hopes of winning a whole bunch of seats outside of the Lower Mainland.
But Kinder Morgan is just one project and there are plenty more out there for the NDP to stumble on: the Site C dam, the Delta coal port expansion, new mining ventures, fracking and the potential expansion of the LNG industry.
Of course, the B.C. Liberals face their own challenges on this file, but they are nowhere nearly as divisive for the party. The government may well end up opposing Kinder Morgan itself, but it will still be able to point to its support for natural resource jobs.
The fact that many of these jobs have yet to materialize and may not actually be created for years is almost immaterial in political terms, at least in the short-term (although one potential disaster for Clark is if her all-in push for the LNG industry falls completely flat).
It will be interesting to see how much of these internal debates (political party versus social movement, and economic growth versus environmental values) surface during the NDP's leadership race.
I suspect there will be some heated discussions, and potential leadership candidates will try to navigate some tricky waters as they try to woo support.
But the leadership race may not resolve these problems. If the past rules for the leadership race apply, the outcome will be determined by bulk membership sign-ups (particularly in ethnic communities) and not by a candidate's policy or philosophy.
The departure of Dix as leader was inevitable, but that on its own it doesn't solve the riddles facing the party. It is still an entity searching for an identity, and its members are far from being unified on solving those challenges, let alone on who should lead them.
Keith Baldrey is chief political reporter for Global BC.
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