Monday November 20, 2023 | VICTORIA, BC [Updated 5:40 pm]
Political analysis by Mary P Brooke | Island Social Trends
The next BC provincial election “will not be easy” said NDP MLA Ravi Kahlon at the 2023 BC NDP convention in Victoria on November 19.
It won’t be “like any election we’ve fought in the past”, said the seasoned politician who is NDP House Leader and Housing Minister. He was first elected as MLA in 2017 (Delta North) and again in 2020, and has been rising up through the ranks.
Pointing to the politics of fear and division that rose in the USA during the Donald Trump campaign in 2020, Kahlon said that in the BC provincial election “we’ll see a US-style campaign from right-wing parties”. He says the BC United Leader Kevin Falcon and the BCU Party are “dusting off the old playbook” and evidently indicating that they would “cut health-care workers and teachers, and all the important public services that we desperately need” and also privatize health-care.
“We need to win, my friends.” With a 93.1% confidence vote for Premier David Eby at this past weekend’s convention, it looks like things are heading in the right direction.
Now one year for Premier Eby:
The NDP have been under new leadership with David Eby as premier for one year now; Eby’s speech on Saturday afternoon during the convention focussed on what was been done and what still needs to be done.
He wants people to see results of the work that the NDP has done under his leadership, in the footsteps of NDP leadership under former Premier John Horgan.
In December 2022 Eby announced his new (and current) cabinet, and they got to work in 2023 with initiatives in a range of areas covering affordability, health-care, crime reduction, anti-racism, and housing.
Eby’s soft-launch of the 2024 campaign yesterday was: “We can, and we will, here we go!”
Housing is a pressing challenge:
Housing is “one of the most pressing challenges”, said Kahlon to the crowd of delegates at the Victoria Conference Centre. He says the NDP government has been “working hard for homes that people can afford”. In housing “the challenges are real”.
“We know that a lot of people are struggling around British Columbia due to a lack of housing. We are not shying away from this problem. We are tackling this problem head-on. We know (that) for two decades we have seen under-investment in affordable housing in British Columbia. We had governments that believed that somehow if we just stayed out of the way the private sector would just solve the problem on its own. We know that’s not the case. That’s why we’ve been building $7 billion in non-market housing across this province.
“We’re tired of waiting for the federal government to the do the right thing to invest in Indigenous housing on and off reserve. We are the only province in this country that is investing in off-reserve housing for Indigenous people. We should be proud of that innovation.
“For too long we saw REITs (real estate investment firms) moving into British Columbia, buying up rental buildings, displacing renters, and driving up the rents for people. For too long we’ve been seeing that across the country,” said Kahlon. He pointed out that BC has been the first jurisdiction in Canada to launch a $500 million fund for partnering with a non profit association, a cooperative association, and an Aboriginal housing association, as a way to “get in, buy those buildings, and protect those renters from future rate hikes”.
“We’re taking some big steps to take some challenges around short-term rentals,” said Kahlon, and that multi-unit housing will become easier to build (including off-the-shelf housing designs that will be available starting summer 2024).
“It’s everyone’s responsibility to be part of the housing solution,” said Kahlon yesterday in an interview with Island Social Trends.
Working the crowd:
Kahlon and the NDP cabinet know that they need an army of volunteers in order to win the 2024 election.
Ackowledging “the importance of team work”, Kahlon addressed the convention with remarks like “I really missed you”, referring the pandemic-interruption of conventions during 2020 through 2022.
Getting together is “a chance to reconnect with each other, to talk about things that we’re so passionate about, and see other people that believe and feel the same way that we do”, said Kahlon to a positive crowd.
“We are dealing with a lot of challenges in British Columbia,” said Kahlon, noting that “many other jurisdictions around North America” are dealing with the same challenges.
And delivering a punch to the BCU: “I know Kevin Falcon is really worried about the Swifties,” said Kahlon, referring to folks who can buy expensive concert tickets who might not find an Airbnb or Vrbo room to stay in when the superstar comes to perform in Vancouver. “But I want to assure everyone in this place, that the Swifties will be okay.”
“We abolished the MSP. We eliminated the interest on student loans. We made transit free for kids. We’re lowering child care costs. There is so much more work to do, but we have made a lot of progress in this province,” said Kahlon about the NDP’s initiatives.
“Many people may remember MSP — Kevin Falcon loved to increase it,” said Kahlon, like throwing red meat to the election-hungry crowd. “Now they’re talking openly about privatizing health-care. Kevin Falcon made the largest cuts to health-care, now he’s openly talking about privatizing health-care,” said Falcon. And added: “When they talk about their housing plan, it’s ‘the private sector will just figure itself out’. Let’s cut the taxes for the biggest developers and sell our public assets off to them and hope that they will somehow get an affordable house.”
“We cannot let that happen. We’re going to fight together to make sure that doesn’t happen,” to enthuse the crowd.
Dealing with the BC Conservatives:
“Another party is trying to get into British Columbia. They’re bringing extreme right-wing views right now into our legislature and into our communities,” said Kahlon at the podium, referring to the BC Conservaitves “attacking SOGI resources in our classrooms, to drive queer and trans kids back into the closet”.
And: “The second week of the legislature, they came in denying climate change exists and already talking about undermining the progress that we’ve made.”
Kahlon says the BC NDP needs to win the next provincial election to not only “address the challenges of vulnerable people and workers” but also “because we are a beacon of hope across this country”.
“People are looking to British Columbia for progressive values when it comes to climate and human rights. We need to do that work together. It will not be easy,” said Kahlon, saying the party ground game team will need to “knock on doors and organize in every corner of the province, and talk to family and friends about why this is important”.
“We need to combat this fear with hope. And if we do that, we will win this next election. I look forward to doing this important work with you” said Kahlon. The legislature will be in session only to the end of this month, and then reconvene in 2024.
Campaigning will likely ramp up in earnest by mid-summer 2024, toward the October 19 election date.
Last week Premier Eby said the BC NDP has done some significant fundraising for the next campaign (as of September 30, 2023 the BC NDP had raised more campaign funds than the BC United, BC Greens and BC Conservatives combined).
And that wrapped up the three-day 2023 BC NDP Convention. The crowd of officially 741 delegates was tired from announcements, meetings, sessions, events, and dinners, and debating resolutions. The BC NDP lists these as their ‘notable’ resolutions that passed:
• Expanding the speculation and vacancy tax
• Condemning rising transphobic and homophobic hate
• Increasing food production and combating rising grocery prices
• Establishing a Youth Climate Corps and accelerating climate action
• Expanding and improving rural health care services
They had listened hard and applauded for two keynote speeches — Premier David Eby on November 18 and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh on November 19. Even Manitoba Premier Wab Kinew made an appearance (by video) which injected even more excitement.
“I’m proud of the progress we’ve made together as BC New Democrats, but I’m nowhere near satisfied,” said BC NDP Leader David Eby during the convention.
The convention stretched into Sunday afternoon with some last-minute resolutions that hit the floor about the Israel-Gaza situation (that motion got passed) and even one about supporting Dr Bonnie Henry in the face of recent harassment (no time to discuss that one).
Convention delegates also re-elected Aaron Sumexheltza as the President of the party — a practicing lawyer and the former elected chief of the Lower Nicola Indian Band. He is the BC NDP’s first-ever Indigenous President.
The BC NDP gathers for convention every two years. The next convention will be held in fall 2025.
Jagmeet Singh at the BC NDP convention (November 19, 2023)
Eby’s first-year successes, next election just 11 months ahead (November 18, 2023)
===== ABOUT ISLAND SOCIAL TRENDS:
Island Social Trends Editor Mary P Brooke has produced political analysis since 2008, through now four publications: MapleLine Magazine (2008-2010), Sooke Voice News (2011-2013), West Shore Voice News (2014-2020), and Island Social Trends (since mid-2020).
She writes through a socioeconomic lens so that individuals, households, businesses and communities may learn of impacts on their daily lives.
Ms Brooke reports with the BC Legislative Press Gallery. She was nominated in 2023 for a Jack Webster Foundation award that recognizes a woman journalist who contributes to her community through journalism.