The BC NDP is losing its “heart and soul” as a defender of workers’ rights, an advocate of curbing climate change and a model of transparent governance, says Anjali Appadurai, an environmental activist who announced Wednesday her intention to challenge lone party leadership candidate David Eby, the province’s attorney general.
Appadurai, 32, who narrowly lost her bid to become a member of Parliament for Vancouver-Granville last year, now ensures some form of policy debate will take place for the party’s leadership contest, following Premier John Horgan’s decision to step down as premier this fall.
“It’s not so much me running against David Eby, as much as it’s me running against the current direction of the party,” Appadurai told Glacier Media.
“It’s much more about what [Eby's] signalled, and he’s signalled no significant departure from the Horgan administration and the direction of the party,” she said, adding she was particularly inspired by youth who are disaffected by party politics.
Climate change fight not advancing under current NDP policies: Appadurai
Broadly speaking, the BC NDP has, said Appadurai, “prioritized industry above people,” as evidenced of continued fossil fuel subsidies in the fracking industry.
Appadurai is director (on leave) of the non-profit group Climate Emergency Unit, and cites the need to “halt colonial violence by our government” against Indigenous people as guided by the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
She also opposes LNG development, which she says will take precedent over any specific desire of Indigenous communities to develop LNG themselves — although government policies supportive of a “livable future” should preclude that from happening.
“It’s important to acknowledge that our entire economy exists within ecological limits,” said Appadurai.
With that said, Appadurai broadly supports more immigration to the province and building more housing; and growing the province’s population can nevertheless align with climate change goals as long as wealth and resources are more equitably distributed, she said.
The NDP is a party for workers, she said, and government investments in re-training fossil fuel industry workers should prevent job losses — a fundamental short-term concern of the energy transition.
A government more supportive of workers, says Appadurai
As the province stares down new contracts for the public service, such as the BC General Employees' Union and BC Teachers' Federation, it is faced with the prospect of augmenting its 2% annual pay raise policy that once aligned with stable pre-pandemic inflation. Appadurai says “the public service needs a tremendous public investment” at this time and erg pay raises must exceed inflation, now at roughly 8%.
Granted all of this adds up on the expense side of the budget, she says she’s willing to challenge the “cookie cutter” arguments against higher taxation.
“We’re allowing corporations to set the agenda, or the tone and direction of the economy,” said Appadurai.
Concerns about policing, housing and government transparency
Appadurai said she wasn’t able to comment on specific measures the NDP has taken on freedom of information laws, such as legislating fees on requests for government records, but said the overall functioning of the NDP government has been opaque.
“Working on the advocacy side in non-profit, it’s difficult to see how decisions are being made and being ordered in this government,” she said.
Appadurai gave credit to Eby on his work as attorney general on anti-corruption files but said she couldn’t weigh in yet on whether the province ought to establish its own provincial police force. She did mention while she was inspired by visiting Wet'suwet'en communities in northern B.C. She said she was dismayed by government-led police action against Indigenous residents opposed to gas pipeline expansions.
Appadurai said fixing the overdose crisis is “not an easy recipe” but advocates for decriminalization of drugs.
“What we’ve seen in Vancouver in the past couple of days with street sweeps is not the right approach,” said Appadurai referencing the City of Vancouver’s move to remove tents from Downtown Eastside streets.
Bid welcomed by Eby, Greens
Eby took to Twitter to state his support.
"Welcome to Anjali Appadurai as she joins the race to become the next leader of the BC NDP. This race is an opportunity for a healthy exchange of ideas about how best to serve British Columbians, and I look forward to that debate. I wish her luck, but not too much luck!"
And Adam Olsen, Green MLA for Saanich North and the Islands, issued a statement echoing some of Appadurai’s "social and environmental values."
Olsen suggested the race is a fait accompli granted “48 of the 57-member B.C. NDP caucus has endorsed David Eby for leader and premier, who said at the launch of his leadership campaign, ‘Really I don’t see any radical shifts happening here for government.’"
"The reality is that the B.C. NDP caucus has propped up the fossil fuel industry with billions of dollars in tax breaks and subsidies, it has moved forward with the destruction of farmland and traditional Indigenous territory by approving Site C twice, and it has used the RCMP and the courts to aggressively fight Indigenous rights. The B.C. NDP caucus has failed to curb the intensification of the housing crisis, and it has failed to even put forward a plan to address the family doctor shortage," said Olsen.
As part of her campaign Appadurai is now seeking NDP memberships from the public for the upcoming vote, commencing Nov. 13. More candidates may come forward but the nomination deadline is Oct. 4.