The race to replace Premier John Horgan as the next leader of the BC NDP was supposed to be a coronation of sorts for former attorney-general David Eby, but it now has the potential to become an actual contest.
And that has many NDP MLAs (almost all of whom have endorsed Eby’s candidacy) somewhat worried.
Climate activist Anjali Appadurai has declared her candidacy for leader, although at the time of this column’s writing the party had not approved her as a candidate. She must go through a vetting process that will determine whether she is even eligible to run.
I can tell you that there are a fair number of NDP MLAs who are hoping her candidacy is denied, or at the very least the party memberships secured by her campaign are ruled ineligible.
Their concerns are over the perception that environmental activist organizations such as Dogwood B.C. are trying to convince their supporters to take out NDP memberships in order to vote for Appadurai and basically take control of the party.
“This is nothing short of an attempted hostile takeover,” one MLA told me. Another labelled Appadurai an “interloper” who has had “no role in our success.”
The party has yet to release any details about how many people the Appadurai and Eby campaigns have signed up as party members, but rumours abound that her campaign has signed up quite a few people.
Her campaign is being investigated on two fronts. Elections BC and the NDP itself are investigating whether an environmental organization improperly involved itself in the membership sign-up process and whether any memberships were illegally paid for.
The reason for the NDP MLAs’ collective angst is that she opposes so many critical government policies that the caucus and cabinet strongly support, and the idea of her becoming their party leader is both fascinating and surreal at the same time.
As a climate activist, Appardurai strongly opposes the use of fossil fuels and all that comes with that. So she opposes the Coastal Gaslink pipeline, the LNG industry and presumably fracking, a process used to free up natural gas to heat many British Columbia homes.
On the political spectrum, she is much, much further to the left than any member of the existing caucus. She advocates for much higher corporate taxation and stopping “wealth accumulation,” plus a complete rethink of the industrial sector.
She has branded the government she seeks to lead as having “failed” on many issues, including the handling of health care in the pandemic, affordability, climate change and investing in public services.
Of course, if her candidacy is approved and she ends up winning, it is not entirely clear she would become premier, since the caucus must support the premier.
And right now, at least, she not only does not have the support of any B.C. MLA, she is facing active hostility from many members of the government caucus she wants to lead.
Still, if her candidacy is ultimately approved, Eby’s coronation will have to be put on hold. Whether it is ultimately replaced by a successful move by the environmental movement to take over his party remains to be seen.
Keith Baldrey is chief political reporter for Global BC