Adrian Dix, the popular MLA for Vancouver-Kingsway, strode briskly into his office, stopped to talk with staff, and sat down at the table for a talk. He flung one leg over the other and exuded restlessness, as though he couldn't wait to get back on the move.
More equality for youth
"We're seeing increasing inequality in our society and a lot of young people are not just shut out of the political process, but shut out of the economy," Dix said. As leader of the NDP, Dix has been advocating for more equality, and expressed concern for youth in the province.
"The baby boomer generation -- I was born in 1964, so I'm at the tail end of that generation -- hasn't been as generous a group of leaders as one would hope for. Our generation has tended to cut taxes for those in the highest income brackets, while increasing fees and cutting services to seniors."
Pointing to himself as an example, Dix continued, "I did not pay tuition to go to university in this province, ever. My scholarships rose more than tuition fees, and tuition was under $1,000, which, even in the mid-80s, when I went to college, was not anywhere close to what it is today."
Dix said that he believed that the NDP could better address the concerns of young people than the current Liberal leadership under Christy Clark.
And speaking of Clark, she is his main rival in his bid to become premier. Unlike the talkative former radio host Clark, Dix is known as someone who deflects the limelight onto his constituents. In 2008, when three Vietnamese workers died on a mushroom farm in Langley, Dix rarely spoke at the press conferences that he helped organize for the victims' families. People have sometimes characterized him as "aloof".
On the desire to become premier
"The current provincial government has abdicated its role to ensure that public health care and education are what they can be in this province, and I think there's a role for the government in doing that," he said. Becoming a leader doesn't seem to be a goal in and of itself for Dix -- he repeated that becoming premier wasn't on his "bucket list".
Briefly mentioning that he respected Christy Clark, Dix criticized the B.C. Liberals' priorities, providing hundreds of millions in funding for the B.C. Stadium roof and the Canada Convention Centre, even as teachers and schools suffered from underfunding. According to Dix (and confirmed by the B.C. Teachers Federation), 190 schools have closed since Clark was education minister in 2002.
Dix is a strong supporter of the carbon tax, and is all for Vancouverites reducing their carbon footprint by trading their cars for bus passes.
"I take transit just about every day," said Dix, who lives near the 49th Avenue station. "Every day I spend in Vancouver, I take the SkyTrain."
"I don't bike. I think the entire driving and bicycling population should be happy about that, because I'm not great on a bike," he joked.
"The challenge of Vancouver is that it is very expensive to live anywhere in the city. For many people that means they can't afford to live near work. If you want to buy or rent something, you're going into an area well outside of Vancouver or near rapid transit, so you're stuck with driving and pay higher consumption taxes on that."
Dix, who travels extensively in the US, said he unfortunately hasn't seen as much of the world as he wants to. As an Irish-Canadian who is fluent in French, Dix has visited France and other parts of Europe in his twenties, but has been too busy in politics to travel afar. If he could, however, he said Asia would be his first choice destination.
"From the point of view of representing constituency, the Philippines, Vietnam, China and Japan as well, and India," he said, listing the countries he would like to visit. "Those areas have a profound importance. But I would love to travel more -- I haven't seen very much of the world."
On the issue of the Lost Canadians, Dix said that he was aware of it, but gave a non-committal response, deeming it mostly a federal question:
"I've read about the issue. Obviously there's an injustice there," he said. "It's important that the public know about the quetion, I think when the public finds out about it, they would be surprised and supportive of it."
When asked why Jack Layton, Olivia Chow and leaders in the federal NDP were not supporting the Lost Canadians, Dix said he was not aware that they were not pursuing the issue.
Famous for being a workaholic, Dix said that if he had a young family, he may have reconsidered running for leadership of the province.
"Had I children, I would have thought twice about running for leadership, --- I may not be in politics even, because I think you really have to devote yourself to this kind of job." Casting his eyes down, he said, "I have a wonderful relationship with Renee (Saklikar) and we're very committed to each other. I'm very supportive of her work, she's very supportive of mine."
After posing briefly for photographs, Dix got up and talked briefly about social media (he's fairly active on twitter), and the practice of writing.
"I do all of my own tweeting, and I do manage to find time for it -- but what I really miss is longer forms of writing," he said, mentioning that he used to write fairly often for the bilingual French-English newspaper, La Source.
"I really like the thought process that goes into it, the focus that goes into writing a long article," he said, looking down and gesturing with his hands, as though envisioning a desk before him.
And with a brief handshake, he left as briskly as he came in the room, with hardly a breather as he immersed himself back into work.