David Eby will be declared the British Columbia NDP leader on Friday, clearing the way for him to become premier of the province, but it’s been a bumpy ride.
Eby received strong endorsement on Thursday from current Premier John Horgan, who also accused the campaign of disqualified candidate Anjali Appadurai of resorting to “thuggery.”
“I’m ready to go and I’m very, very, very pleased David Eby is going to be the next premier of B.C.,” said Horgan at a news conference. “I’m a British Columbian and I want a confident, competent, compassionate leader and he fits that bill.”
Eby is the former attorney general and housing minister. He had no competition for the job until environmental activist Appadurai entered the race.
The party disqualified her late Wednesday after a report by the party’s chief electoral officer found she “engaged in serious improper conduct” by working with third parties, including the environmental group Dogwood BC, for membership drives on her behalf.
Horgan acknowledged the controversy surrounding the leadership race and blamed the Appadurai campaign.
“These things happen, sometimes campaigns are not following the rules,” Horgan said. “This has become a much more public affair. I’m fine with that and I’m sure the Appadurai campaign is fine with that. It strikes me that was their objective from the beginning.”
He said leadership races often create tensions and at times candidates are disqualified.
Horgan cited the removal of federal MP Patrick Brown from the Conservative leadership race for membership sign-up breaches and the rejection of B.C. Liberal candidate Aaron Gunn for espousing views inconsistent with that party’s commitment to reconciliation, diversity and acceptance of all people in B.C.
Horgan became testy during the news conference, saying Appadurai supporters were calling and emailing the volunteer members of the NDP executive who met to decide her campaign’s fate Wednesday.
“I can’t be more frustrated by that type of thuggery,” Horgan said, ending the news conference abruptly.
“I think I’m done here,” he said. “Thanks very much everybody, I’ll see you around.”
The transition date for the new premier had previously been set for December following a Dec. 3 leadership election vote, but that process has now changed with the disqualification of Appadurai, leaving Eby the only candidate.
A statement from the party’s chief electoral officer, Elizabeth Cull, said that after the executive’s decision to disqualify Appadurai, she will declare Eby the new leader on Friday.
Eby met virtually with his caucus colleagues on Thursday and cheers and clapping could be heard from outside the room.
Ravi Kahlon, Eby’s campaign co-chairman, told the media afterwards that the party has been through a difficult process but is united behind Eby.
Kahlon said Eby received a standing ovation.
“For us as a caucus, we’re ready to get to work because we know that’s important to British Columbians,” Kahlon said.
“There was a lot of excitement in the room.”
Kahlon said no date has been set to officially swear in Eby as premier.
“Everyone was expecting the race to go to December, but when the campaign doesn’t follow the rules, this is what happens,” he said.
Kahlon said Eby is sticking to his campaign pledge not to call an early election.
The next provincial election is scheduled for October 2024.
“David’s been clear, we already have a mandate from the public,” said Kahlon. “He’s indicated we have a mandate, there’s an election date and we’re certainly going to proceed to do the work we need to do to that date.
Cull’s report concluded Dogwood BC solicited “fraudulent memberships” by encouraging members of other political parties to join the New Democrats so they could vote in the race.
Appadurai and Dogwood deny any rules were broken.
Appadurai was to hold a news conference later Thursday but said Wednesday that her team used grassroots organizing to sign up thousands of new members, significantly more than Eby.
“And so, the party had a choice. Let all the members of the party, new and old, choose the next leader and risk having a climate champion in the premier seat or take this undemocratic approach and disqualify the candidate.”
Elections BC said in a statement Thursday that it has closed its review into possible political contributions from Dogwood BC to Appadurai’s campaign after the NDP’s decision to disqualify her.
The review was started when complaints were made alleging Dogwood’s activities in the leadership race may constitute in-kind political contributions under the Elections Act, it said.
“The Act requires approved leadership contestants to only accept political contributions from eligible individuals, and file financing reports with Elections BC. The Act further prohibits organizations from making political contributions, in-kind or otherwise, to approved leadership contestants.”
Kahlon said he expected the NDP to unite and build strength under Eby’s leadership despite the controversy surrounding Appadurai’s campaign.
“The party has always had a lot of activists,” he said. “We’ve always had a lot of different people coming from different parts of the activist movement. We have a very strong base of members across the province and I know that there’s strong support for David.”
Here’s a sketch of the man who will soon replace Horgan.
Birthplace: Kitchener, Ont.
Personal: married, two children
Career: lawyer, specializing in constitutional and administrative law issues related to protection and promotion of human rights and democratic freedoms. Previously an adjunct law professor at University of B.C., president of HIV/AIDS Legal Network and the executive director of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association.
Eby’s work for the Pivot Legal Society to help people in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside was recognized by the United Nations Association in Canada and the B.C. Human Rights Coalition.
He’s the author of “The Arrest Handbook,” published by the B.C. Civil Liberties Association. It provides information to people who are arrested on what to expect from police and how to act.
Politics: member of the legislature for Vancouver-Point Grey since 2013, when he defeated former premier Christy Clark, forcing her to seek a seat in a Kelowna byelection.
Known as a fierce critic in Opposition, he has guided some of the province’s most contentious and difficult files while in cabinet as attorney general and minister responsible for housing, including a crackdown on money laundering, driving debate for housing policy reforms and kick-starting the cash-strapped Crown-owned Insurance Corporation of B.C. He also ushering in the establishment of a Human Rights Commissioner for B.C.
Fun Facts: In his younger days, Eby played in several bands in Vancouver, including a four-piece band called, The band of Ladner!, a suburb of Vancouver. At one NDP convention, Eby got up on stage and belted out a version of Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer,’ to much applause.
Quote: “I have faith in the party and the provincial executive to ensure our leadership race is fair and the integrity of the process is maintained. I remain focused on engaging with New Democrats and British Columbians to build the future of our province together.”
—Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press