NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's uplifting perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Wednesday, July 6th, 2022

The race to succeed Premier John Horgan is on. Who will be the BCNDP’s next leader?

A full head trans­plant is the most chal­leng­ing polit­i­cal oper­a­tion per­formed in a par­lia­men­tary sys­tem of gov­ern­ment, one in which a par­ty can exe­cute a smooth tran­si­tion in pow­er or come apart and doom itself in the next election..

The left-lean­ing New Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty in British Colum­bia faces a lead­er­ship con­test after pop­u­lar B.C. Pre­mier John Hor­gan announced that he is leav­ing the job he has held four five years and will not run for the Leg­isla­tive Assem­bly of B.C. in the next provin­cial elec­tion. Hor­gan, six­ty-three, has come through a bout with throat can­cer but decid­ed that he does­n’t have the ener­gy or reserves for a mul­ti-year com­mit­ment to the jobs of par­ty leader and Premier.

John Horgan speaking at a press conference

British Colum­bia Pre­mier John Hor­gan speaks at a press con­fer­ence in Feb­ru­ary of 2019 (Pho­to: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

Long in oppo­si­tion, the New Democ­rats used to be a par­ty aligned with orga­nized labor, with a base on Van­cou­ver Island and in coastal pulp mill towns.

The par­ty has expand­ed that base under Horgan’s leadership.

The NDP has won leg­isla­tive seats on the North Shore above Van­cou­ver, in the Fras­er Val­ley and in sub­ur­ban Richmond.

The par­ty has a “bench” of capa­ble Cab­i­net min­is­ters to con­test its upcom­ing lead­er­ship con­test – par­ty mem­bers will select the premier’s suc­ces­sor – but must put in place a pre­mier who will con­nect with vot­ers in the fash­ion of the avun­cu­lar, acces­si­ble Horgan.

The province’s free enter­prise coali­tion, once the Social Cred­it Par­ty and now the (not very lib­er­al) Lib­er­als, have a his­to­ry of come-from-behind elec­tion victories.

A look at the front bench: The crown has put a lot of weight on the shoul­ders of David Eby. Eby, forty-four, is Attor­ney Gen­er­al and Hous­ing Min­is­ter. He was once direc­tor of the B.C. Civ­il Lib­er­ties Association.

Eby entered pol­i­tics in 2013 by upset­ting then-Pre­mier Christy Clark in her home rid­ing (the Cana­di­an term for a dis­trict) of Van­cou­ver-Point Grey. (Clark had to go through a by-elec­tion in the Okana­gan to get back in the Assembly.)

David Eby talks with supporters

David Eby speaks with sup­port­ers prepar­ing to go can­vass­ing in the province’s best-edu­cat­ed rid­ing, ahead of the 2013 elec­tion in which he defeat­ed Christy Clark (Pho­to: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

Eby is every­where. He has cleaned up a man­age­ment mess in the Insur­ance Cor­po­ra­tion of British Colum­bia, offered rebates to ICBC cus­tomers and moved the province toward no-fault auto insurance.

He has reformed elec­tion financ­ing, evening a play­ing field long dom­i­nat­ed by cor­po­rate Van­cou­ver. He launched an inves­ti­ga­tion into use of British Colum­bia for mon­ey laun­der­ing through the province’s casinos.

British Colum­bia recent­ly took the lead among Canada’s province’s in secur­ing a $150 mil­lion (Cana­di­an) set­tle­ment – “the largest set­tle­ment of its kind in Cana­di­an his­to­ry,” in Eby’s words – with Pur­due Phar­ma Cana­da over its man­u­fac­ture and pro­mo­tion of the opi­oid-based pain med­ica­tion Oxy­con­tin. Opi­oids, espe­cial­ly fen­tanyl, kill more peo­ple in British Colum­bia than any­place else in Canada.

Bowinn Ma, thir­ty-six, the province’s youngest leg­is­la­tor, is very dif­fer­ent from NDP mem­bers who once rose on the floor of the Leg­is­la­ture to denounce tax breaks giv­en big busi­ness, shout­ing: “The hogs are at the trough!” She is an engi­neer, a for­mer project man­ag­er at Van­cou­ver Inter­na­tion­al Air­port. She is a backer of the #MeToo move­ment who used the floor of the B.C. Leg­is­la­ture to take a cross-bor­der shot at U.S. Supreme Court nom­i­nee Brett Kavanaugh.

Ma scored a 2017 break­through for New Democ­rats on the North Shore, cap­tur­ing the North Van­cou­ver-Lons­dale riding.

In 2020 she became Min­is­ter of State for Infra­struc­ture. Com­ing from a rid­ing with patience-strain­ing com­mutes across Bur­rard Inlet, she is respon­si­ble for upgrades bad­ly need­ed in pop­u­la­tion cen­ters con­strained by geography.

Specif­i­cal­ly, Ma’s port­fo­lio includes expan­sion of TransLink Sky­train, rapid bus ser­vice from the North Shore into Van­cou­ver, the Massey Tun­nel project (due for com­ple­tion in 2030) and rebuild­ing of the aging Pat­tul­lo Bridge over the Fras­er Riv­er at New Westminster.

British Colum­bia has had two women serve as pre­mier, each from the free enter­prise side of the polit­i­cal fence. Both lost elec­tions, although Christy Clark has gone on to reap the rewards of cor­po­rate directorships.

Nathan Cullen, forty-nine, was named ear­li­er this year as Min­is­ter of Munic­i­pal Affairs. He is from the far-north rid­ing of Stikine, hav­ing pre­vi­ous­ly rep­re­sent­ed the north­west cor­ner of British Colum­bia for fif­teen years in Canada’s House of Com­mons. A week short of his fifti­eth birth­day, Cullen has been a promis­ing young man in Cana­di­an politi­cians in three dif­fer­ent decades.

Wash­ing­ton State has often sent its best polit­i­cal tal­ent to Wash­ing­ton, D.C., although Mike Lowry and Jay Inslee did come home to win elec­tions as gov­er­nor. In Cana­da, the New Democ­rats usu­al­ly cap­ture twen­ty-five to thir­ty seats in the three hun­dred and eighty-eight mem­ber fed­er­al parliament.

British Colum­bia is a province where they can (occa­sion­al­ly) govern.

Cullen has worked as a medi­a­tor between the British Colum­bia gov­ern­ment and Abo­rig­i­nal First Nations hered­i­tary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’em peo­ple, who have vehe­ment­ly opposed the Coastal Gas Link pipeline that will trans­port liq­uid nat­ur­al gas to an export port at Kitimat.

The Hor­gan gov­ern­ment has faced sit-ins along the pipeline route.

The New Democ­rats are a par­ty of labor, but also home to Abo­rig­i­nal First Nations and envi­ron­men­tal activists. Hor­gan has gone through a tricky bal­anc­ing act. He reluc­tant­ly gave a go-ahead to the $8 bil­lion (and ris­ing) Site C dam on the Peace Riv­er, a project launched under Christy Clark. The gov­ern­ment has, how­ev­er, held up log­ging of old growth forests.

More than 1,100 peo­ple have been arrest­ed at one log­ging site on low­er Van­cou­ver Island. The New Democ­rats tried but were unable to stop the Cana­di­an fed­er­al gov­ern­ment from push­ing for­ward with the Trans­Moun­tain Pipeline expan­sion, which will car­ry up to 890,000 bar­rels of oil a day to an export ter­mi­nal at Burn­a­by, just east of Vancouver.

One poten­tial con­tender, Ravi Kahlon, has bowed out.

Kahlon, forty-three, played on Canada’s field hock­ey team in the 2000 and 2008 Olympic Games, and took the “swing” rid­ing of Delta North from the Lib­er­als in the 2017 provin­cial elec­tion. He mount­ed a mod­el vol­un­teer cam­paign in a con­stituen­cy that hugs the south bank of the Fras­er River.

Kahlon did the grunt work of gov­ern­ment under Hor­gan, serv­ing as par­lia­men­tary sec­re­tary in a pair of Cab­i­net min­istries, and point man for the New Democ­rats’ plan for a new tun­nel to replace the aging, over­crowd­ed George Massey Tun­nel under the Fras­er Riv­er. The tun­nel is a major route into Canada’s Van­cou­ver from White Rock, Delta and Surrey.

The reward came after the New Democ­rats’ 2020 elec­tion vic­to­ry: Kahlon was giv­en the job of Min­is­ter of Jobs, Eco­nom­ic Recov­ery and Inno­va­tion, giv­en the job of over­see­ing B.C.’s recov­ery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

This morn­ing, how­ev­er, Kahlon decid­ed not to enter the lead­er­ship race, say­ing he would sup­port Eby instead. Eby has yet to offi­cial­ly declare his can­di­da­cy, but get­ting Kahlon’s sup­port is big, as Kahlon might have been his biggest rival.

Hard to see any­one else beat­ing Eby,” tweet­ed Glob­al’s Kei­th Bal­drey.

The New Democ­rats’ lead­er­ship race will see cli­mate, resource and envi­ron­men­tal issues at play. Of great­est import, how­ev­er, who will be the face of the par­ty as it tries to hold pow­er? Who will face off with new Lib­er­al Par­ty leader Kevin Fal­con on the floor of the Leg­is­la­ture? Who will project an abil­i­ty to gov­ern one of the Earth’s gor­geous places? The answer will play a big role in the BCND­P’s future.

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