British Columbia’s New Democratic Party (NDP) may be leading in the polls ahead of this Tuesday’s provincial election, but in order to actually assume power and become the majority party in the B.C. Legislative Assembly, the NDP has to capture at least half a dozen ridings currently represented by Liberals or independents, plus hold onto the thirty-six it’s already got.
One of the party’s best prospects, civil rights activist David Eby, is running in Vancouver — Point Grey, a riding that encompasses the University of British Columbia and is represented by Christy Clark… the premier of the province.
Prior to 2011, Vancouver — Point Grey was represented by Gordon Campbell, the province’s former premier, who now holds the plum post of High Commissioner to the United Kingdom.
(The High Commissioner heads Canada’s diplomatic mission to Britain).
Campbell won the riding in four consecutive elections, but except for in 2001, his margin of victory was never that great. In 2011, the NDP realized that the riding was ripe for the taking when Eby came up short against Campbell’s successor (and now Premier) Christy Clark by only five hundred and sixty-four votes.
Eby decided in December 2012 to seek a rematch, and is now running against Clark for a second time, having been enthusiastically nominated by the NDP. He’s widely considered one of their rising stars. The Tyee considers him the favorite to win on Tuesday, given his energy-infused candidacy and Clark’s growing unpopularity.
Tyee call: Likely BC New Democratic Party. Premier Christy Clark is running against prominent Vancouver civil rights advocate and lawyer David Eby. It’s going to be a tight race, but with Clark’s approval ratings tanking, it’s looking like Eby will eke out a win.
As Election Day approaches, he and his team are working hard to get out the vote and turn the riding orange. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer’s Joel Connelly and I stopped by his bustling office on West Broadway in the Kitsilano neighborhood (known to locals as “Kits”) to get a sense of how his campaign is going.
Eby, the former director of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, is an impressive and charismatic candidate with a calm and cheery demeanor. He currently serves as an adjunct professor in the Faculty of Law at the University of British Columbia and has been recognized by human rights groups for his contributions to the cause. He is also the President of the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network.
Eby believes in people-powered politics; he has spent a lot of time knocking on doors and calling voters (which is what a good candidate does).
His supporters are taking advantage of decent weather this afternoon to go out canvassing throughout the riding in team, carrying clipboards and stacks of Vote NDP/Eby flyers. Among them are University of Saskatoon students Mitch & Mitch, who’ve come all the way from Saskatchewan to help the Eby campaign.
Environmental protection is one of the values at the heart of Eby’s campaign. In an interview, he explained why he’s not afraid of having a strong, principled position opposing an increase in fossil fuel exports — unlike his opponent, Christy Clark.
“It gives me a couple of advantages,” he said. “One is, it makes it very easy to talk about the issue with people. They understand where we stand.”
“And the second is, it makes it easier for people who hear that position to make a decision on how to vote. If they think that Vancouver should be a major oil export port and there should be four hundred tankers every year passing their front door, then they should vote Liberal. And if they don’t think that, they should vote NDP.”
He also asserted that the next government shouldn’t be oriented towards developing a twentieth-century energy sector.
“If you look at the Liberal campaign platform, you’d think that the only way that we could grow our economy is through natural gas… that everything else is destined to not work out.” Citing the film and tourism industries, he added, “I think we’re more than just a province that mines or moves resources around.”
He described the rematch against Clark “really weird”, explaining that Clark hasn’t shown up to all-candidates meetings or community events and hasn’t been visible until very recently. “It’s like campaigning against a ghost,” he said.
“For the first half of the campaign, during the writ period, they didn’t even drop a flyer in the riding… More recently they’ve dropped a couple now. But it was so strange. There were hardly any signs for the longest time.”
Clark has supporters running phone banks, but there is scant evidence that she’s making an effort to personally connect with her own constituents, Eby added.
“I think that people recognize that she doesn’t live here, in the riding, that she hasn’t come to the meetings, that she hasn’t been in the community.”
“I would say she’s abandoned the riding, but she would have had to have been here in the first place to have abandoned it,” he concluded.
Six other candidates are also challenging Clark in the 2013 election: Independent William Gibbens, Hollis Linschoten of the “Work Less Party”, Conservative Duane Nickull, Libertarian Marisa Palmer, Green Francoise Raunet and Bernard Yankson of the “Platinum Party”. Each is sure to draw votes, but the race is principally between Eby and Clark, with Eby standing a good chance of defeating Clark.