John Horgan and David Eby
John Horgan and David Eby walking together

David Eby, forty-six, will be sworn in as British Columbia’s thir­ty-sev­enth pre­mier at Gov­ern­ment House in Vic­to­ria on Novem­ber 18th, cul­mi­nat­ing the trick­i­est polit­i­cal surgery in a par­lia­men­tary sys­tem of gov­ern­ment – the head transplant.

Hav­ing held a trio of demand­ing Cab­i­net port­fo­lios in the B.C. gov­ern­ment, Eby will suc­ceed Pre­mier John Hor­gan. Hor­gan sub­mit­ted his res­ig­na­tion to Lieu­tenant Gov­er­nor Janet Austin ear­li­er this week, and rec­om­mend­ed Eby as his successor.

British Columbians do not direct­ly elect their pre­mier. They elect a gov­ern­ing body, the Leg­isla­tive Assem­bly, with the win­ning par­ty form­ing gov­ern­ment and its leader becom­ing pre­mier. The left-of-cen­ter New Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty holds a com­fort­able fifty-sev­en seat major­i­ty in the Legislature.

It is pos­si­ble to make a mess of tran­si­tion, pick­ing an unpop­u­lar leader or spilling par­ty blood, as Britain’s Con­ser­v­a­tives have demonstrated.

The Tories are on their third prime min­is­ter of the past three months.

The New Democ­rats expect­ed to anoint Eby after fel­low leg­is­la­tors with­drew from a pos­si­ble chal­lenge. But a cli­mate activist, Anjai Appadu­rai, entered the elec­tion by par­ty mem­bers of Horgan’s suc­ces­sor. Her cam­paign brazen­ly vio­lat­ed rules by which new mem­bers are signed up in antic­i­pa­tion of a lead­er­ship vote.

Mem­bers of the oppo­si­tion Green Par­ty were recruit­ed to take out mem­ber­ships in the NDP, and out­side groups became involved in push­ing her candidacy.

Appadu­rai was dis­qual­i­fied by the party’s chief elec­toral officer.

Media pep­pered Hor­gan with crit­i­cal ques­tions when the out­go­ing pre­mier tried to take a vic­to­ry lap after five most­ly suc­cess­ful years in office. Hor­gan, six­ty-two, is bow­ing out after a bout of throat can­cer which sapped his energy.

The New Democ­rats have two years left in their elec­tion man­date, but Eby is act­ing like a per­son who needs to act imme­di­ate­ly. He is promis­ing one hun­dred days of action, on press­ing prob­lems rang­ing from cli­mate to housing.

The first gov­ern­ment deci­sion came Thurs­day, weeks before the new premier’s swear­ing in. After Van­cou­ver host­ed the 2010 Win­ter Olympics, the province has decid­ed not to sup­port a bid to host the 2030 win­ter games. The gov­ern­ment weighed “its costs, its risks, its poten­tial ben­e­fits against gov­ern­ment pri­or­i­ties like health care, like pub­lic safe­ty, invest­ing in the cost of liv­ing,” Tourism Min­is­ter Lisa Beare told the Leg­is­la­ture. The cabinet’s choice, “putting peo­ple first.”

As in “the States,” crime has become a big issue in the Great White North. The oppo­si­tion (not-very-lib­er­al) Lib­er­al Par­ty has used Ques­tion Peri­od to bom­bard the Leg­is­la­ture with sto­ries of vio­lent assault, notably crimes com­mit­ted by offend­ers on parole.

Eby is a for­mer direc­tor of the B.C. Civ­il Lib­er­ties Asso­ci­a­tion and the Cana­di­an HIV/AIDS Legal Net­work. The new pre­mier, an Ontario native, began his legal career work­ing in Vancouver’s addic­tion-plagued Down­town East Side.

He has promised to press Canada’s fed­er­al gov­ern­ment for action.

“One of the chal­lenges that we face is we can’t direct Crown Coun­sel (pros­e­cu­tors) to vio­late fed­er­al crim­i­nal law,” Eby said last week. “My posi­tion is that vio­lent offend­ers should be kept in jail. As leader of the BC NDP you will see me advo­cat­ing with the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment to make sure that the crim­i­nal code, and the fed­er­al laws, cor­re­spond with what British Columbians want.”

Vet­er­an British Colum­bia jour­nal­ist Rob Shaw wrote recent­ly: “Eby bet­ter have a plan, room in the bud­get and some seri­ous polit­i­cal cap­i­tal to spend solv­ing the crime issue. Because every day he waits, the polit­i­cal dam­age to his gov­ern­ment gets worse.”

It has become very expen­sive to live in British Colum­bia, often dubbed Canada’s “lotus land” for its mel­low cli­mate (com­pared to the rest of the coun­try) and Vancouver’s sta­tus as an inter­na­tion­al city and gate­way to the Pacific.

Van­cou­ver reg­u­lar­ly ranks on top-five lists of the world’s best cities in which to live – if you can afford it.

Eby has vowed to deliv­er. talk­ing of a tax on homes pur­chased by spec­u­la­tors and then quick­ly put back on the mar­ket. For those find­ing it tough to rent and impos­si­ble to buy hous­ing, “we will deliv­er that hous­ing for you,” he promised last week in a speech. “For the peo­ple liv­ing in the streets, absolutely.”

“These are not small mat­ters that can be resolved overnight,” he said in a recent let­ter to the province’s 400,000-member civ­il ser­vice. With­out help of pub­lic sec­tor employ­ees, “we won’t be suc­cess­ful in this effort.”

David Eby's campaign office
David Eby’s cam­paign office in Van­cou­ver — Point Grey (Pho­to: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

Eby rep­re­sents the rid­ing (elec­toral dis­trict) of Van­cou­ver-Point Grey in the Leg­is­la­ture. He won his seat by beat­ing the Lib­er­als’ then-Pre­mier Christy Clark in the 2013 election.

The Lib­er­als won, but Clark had to find anoth­er rid­ing in which to run.

With his base in Van­cou­ver, Eby must mas­ter a vari­ety of polit­i­cal micro­cli­mates in a province larg­er than Texas.

The Inte­ri­or favors resource devel­op­ment and votes con­ser­v­a­tive. Van­cou­ver Island leans left, where the Green Par­ty has con­test­ed New Democ­rats for envi­ron­men­tal mind­ed voters.

In a late 2020 elec­tion, the NDP scored major break­throughs in the Low­er Fras­er Val­ley, the Van­cou­ver sub­urb of Rich­mond, and North Van­cou­ver. The par­ty with deep left-labor roots won an impres­sive vic­to­ry in the suburbs.

Eby has already unveiled a team of advis­ers that is large­ly new and young. He is expect­ed to revamp the cab­i­net before being sworn in and will face the Leg­is­la­ture on Novem­ber 21st. No time to waste.

About the author

Joel Connelly is a Northwest Progressive Institute contributor who has reported on multiple presidential campaigns and from many national political conventions. During his career at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, he interviewed Presidents Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and George H.W. Bush. He has covered Canada from Trudeau to Trudeau, written about the fiscal meltdown of the nuclear energy obsessed WPPSS consortium (pronounced "Whoops") and public lands battles dating back to the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.

Adjacent posts