B.C. premier-to-be David Eby has ‘mixed feelings’ about end to leadership race

B.C. premier-to-be David Eby has 'mixed feelings' about end to leadership race
B.C. NDP leadership candidate David Eby responds to questions while speaking with reporters in Vancouver, B.C., Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2022. Eby will officially be declared the leader of the B.C. New Democratic Party on Friday, clearing the way for him to be sworn in as premier.

B.C.’s premier-in-waiting says the supporters of his disqualified rival can find a home in the party he is set to lead.

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.

In his first public comments since the only other candidate for the job, Anjali Appadurai, was disqualified, Eby said he has “mixed feelings” about how the leadership contest ended and has already sent an email to current NDP members to encourage them to stay involved.

“Like all New Democrats, I am excited about having discussions about where our government is and where we should be going and (I) have had those discussions across the province,” he said.

“And I see in Anjali a person who’s enthusiastic, brought a lot of energy, got a lot of people engaged in the party. I want those folks to stay engaged and want that conversation to continue.”

Eby is scheduled to hold a news conference Friday after he becomes the party leader to lay out plans for his first 100 days in office. Details regarding his transition to the premier’s office are still being worked out, he said.

Eby said he is grateful to Appadurai for getting more people involved.

“Government is an incredibly important way to deliver for people what they’re looking for and I know British Columbians want to see action on climate and I’m committed to that too,” he said.

Eby received strong endorsement on Thursday from current Premier John Horgan, who accused Appadurai’s campaign 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.”

READ ALSO: Horgan storms out of what could be his final media availability over Appadurai question

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.”

— With files from Ashley Joannou

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 20, 2022. 

Dirk Meissner, The Canadian PressDirk Meissner, The Canadian Press

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