Saturday November 18, 2023 | VICTORIA, BC
Political analysis by Mary P Brooke | Island Social Trends
“I’ve been Premier for exactly one year,” said David Eby as he opened his first convention speech as Premier. And putting together his cabinet happened nearly a year ago.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic this the first in-person BC NDP convention since 2019. A symbolic confluence of out with the old, in with the new.
NDP accomplishments, gained and maintained:
Much of what Eby listed off as accomplishments of the NDP in their six-plus years in office was accomplished while former Premier John Horgan was in the top job, but with Eby pinned in place as Attorney General and responsible for housing.
The list is considerable in terms of helping everyday folks have an easier time of making ends meet, including eliminating medical services plan premiums, eliminating lower mainland bridge tolls, getting vehicle insurance rates under control and significantly reducing the cost of child care for families.
As well, a political coup for the NDP: “The era of big money politics in this province is over,” said Eby. As well, he was particularly proud of BC being the first province to bring the rights of Indigenous peoples into law.
The improvements are considerable, and not the sort of things that people would want reversed or undone.
Swinging into a litany of things that the BC United (formerly BC Liberals) had done wrong when in government for 16 years, Eby highlighted that profile with “instead of firing we are hiring” (with reference to about 4,000 privatized health-care workers back onto the government payroll). He listed off the grinding impact of MSP premiums in those years, as well as steadily increasing BC Hydro rates, bridge tolls, millions of dollars being drained from ICBC while insurance rates kept increase, and allowing room for real estate speculation. All of that was done in order to “reduce taxes for the top two percent”, said Eby.
In a media scrum after his speech, Eby pointed out the need to continue spending on housing, hospitals and schools in order to keep up with population growth in the province. The current figure is now 150,000 new BC residents in the past year (with 250,000 in the years 2021 and 2022).
The NDP approach is about putting people first, and the 700 delegates and of course his NDP cabinet on stage behind him were enthusiastically supportive. And at one point the sound of a crying baby prompted the Premier to note that “children in the convention hall” is part of the NDP way.
Just ahead of Eby’s speech the podium was occupied by his wife Dr Cailey Lynch, who announced that their family will be expanding by one. She is pregnant with their third child, due in June 2024.
Being middle class:
In the familiar style of family story-telling, Eby said that when he was a kid, “being middle class meant being able to afford the basics”. But in acknowledging the affordability crisis, he followed that with”the world has changed since then”.
The economic side sees financial challenges for affording groceries and housing.
There is also a trend of hate expression in society nowadays, and an underlying stress of two active wars (Russian invasion of Ukraine and the efforts of Israel in Gaza to eliminate the Hamas terrorist organization) which he described as “new threats”.
Crises evolved over many years:
“The middle class is barely hanging on. They’ve done everything right, they’ve worked hard but can’t get ahead — even if they’re making good salaries,” said Eby in stating the obvious now. It’s taken a while for politicians to connect that deeply with the broad and specific aspects of the affordability crisis.
The crises that BC now faces offered “lots of warnings over many years”, said Eby in his media scrum. Now it feels like every new financial challenge is “one cost too many”.
Economy and climate:
Dealing with the impacts for people in this economy was the election-style theme of today’s speech, setting the tone for the 11 months ahead. Eby wants people to see results already achieved by NDP leadership. The challenge will be in helping voters see the achievements, in a timely fashion leading up to the campaign.
Protecting the environment and showing “climate leadership in BC” is also on the upcoming campaign roster, something Eby says he owes to today’s children.
The next provincial election is scheduled for October 19, 2024.
The youth vote:
It’s worth noting that the next election for what the NDP hopes will be their third win is the first with youth in full attendance at post-secondary.
The May 2017 election was after university and college students were off-campus for summer jobs and travel, and the September 2020 election was during the pandemic with most students studying remotely.
The youth vote is often a rich resource for the left-leaning NDP.
Housing theme into 2024:
The lead topic now and heading into 2024 seems to be housing. It’s a crisis by every measure …. shortage of supply and high prices (to own or rent), with all of that exacerbated by the uncertainty of already-high interest rates and supply chain disruptions that both push up the cost of materials and destabilize labour availability.
Eby says he wakes up every morning wondering “what others steps we can take to tackle the housing crisis”. The NDP line is that “homes are not for real estate speculators and investors, homes are for people.” The housing crisis will take time to solve. Eby will want to show progress in 2024 as the election looms.
Already five new pieces of housing legislation have been rolled out, which indeed take dramatic action, including:
- Clamping down on short-term rentals will have an immediate and increasing impact on making homes and rental units available.
- Municipalities will have more assurances of funds for infrastructure though upfront amenity cost charges.
- Pre-designed plans for multiplex homes (triplex, quadraplex, six-plex) homes will be made available to builders and developers in mid-2024.
- All lots zoned for single-family dwellings will be open to development with multi-family higher density homes.
- Building higher density housing near rapid transit and frequent bus routes.
Eby wrapped up his speech with a plea to delegates to keep working for a “better brighter future”…. “we can, and we will, here we go!”
Who was there:
About 700 delegates have attended the three-day convention (November 17 to 19). The full BC NDP cabinet attended, backing Eby on the stage.
Also there today was federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and Anne McGrath, national director of the New Democratic Party. About half of the 25 NDP MPs are from BC. Taylor Bachrach (Skeena—Bulkley Valley) was there, as well as Gord Johns (Courtenay—Alberni), and Laurel Collins (Victoria).
Singh will address the convention tomorrow morning (Sunday November 19). Today he told Island Social Trends that the NDP is well-established in BC, that Manitoba is just getting started with NDP leadership (with recently elected Premier Wab Kinew), and that Ontario could be next with their strong NDP opposition.
Eby: people of all backgrounds want peace (November 16, 2023)
Housing supply boost with off-the-shelf multiplex designs (November 16, 2023)
Minister Selina Robinson: true grit & big picture (October 20, 2023)