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The Fall and Rise of Adrian Dix

He came of age in the government of Glen Clark, weathered the scandals of the Dismal Decade, and stands poised in May to become premier. Then what?
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He came of age in the government of Glen Clark, weathered the scandals of the Dismal Decade, and stands poised in May to become premier. Then what?

Of all the things they might have had an epic row about—and by the time they parted ways there were more than a few—Glen Clark figures the worst fight he ever had with Adrian Dix was over a baseball game. It was 1993 and Clark was minister of finance and minister responsible for Crown corporations, including B.C. Place. Dix was his precocious ministerial assistant, known around the legislature for a crackling intelligence and an exceedingly serious, almost geekish bearing.

As Clark recalls it, he came to the office one day to discover he’d been scheduled to throw out the first pitch at a Mariners game in Seattle the following afternoon. Dix had set it up. “I went nuts,” says Clark now, sitting in a booth at his favourite morning eatery, the White Spot on Southeast Marine Drive. At the time, Clark was involved in secret talks with “The Ms” about joining Vancouver and Portland as a newly constituted tri-cities Major League Baseball entry. The idea died quietly, mostly because the players’ union would have no part of it, but not before a trembling Clark walked out onto the Safeco diamond in front of 40,000 fans.

“The reason I was so mad at Adrian is because I wanted no part of the pressure,” Clark recalls. “It was just too much. And secondly, sporting events are usually not good for a politician. More often than not you get booed. Sometimes you really get booed. I remember going down for the game on a floatplane and I was just giving it to Adrian the whole time. I told him, ‘I can’t believe you did this to me.’ I was seriously pissed.”

Clark skipped Dix’s advice to practise a little ahead of time, and he even ignored a suggestion from a Mariners official to throw from a spot several feet closer to the plate, as dignitaries are wont to do. “I said, ‘Screw it. I’m just going to do it,’ ” Clark recalls. “I ended up throwing a perfect strike. I remember during the game one of the Seattle pitchers was having a tough time and someone yelled out, ‘Put the politician in there.’ ”

In the intervening two decades, Dix and Clark have gone on exceptional journeys. Dragged through the court of public opinion, they’ve rebuilt reputations and remain friends and colleagues, talking by phone every couple of weeks about life, sports, and, yes, politics. At one time, the thought of an NDP leader with dreams of becoming premier having Glen Clark as a confidant would have seemed preposterous—who’d be crazy enough to risk reputation by associating with a disgraced premier whose policies are associated with B.C.’s so-called Dismal Decade? But Dix, 48, makes no attempt to hide the fact he and Clark talk. Why would he? At the Jim Pattison Group, Clark has become one of the most successful businessmen in the province, and polls consistently suggest Dix will be our leader come the next election. Theirs is a redemption story for the ages.

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