David Eby's dilemma in the wake of Site C

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      This has not been an easy week for Attorney General David Eby.

      His defence of the government's decision to complete the Site C dam is at the centre of a complaint to the auditor general.

      Then on Friday, some of his erstwhile supporters held a demonstration at his constituency office over the massive hydroelectric project along the Peace River.

      The attorney general has been dogged by other demonstrations in recent months, including one over fish farming and another over the Site C dam. It's hard to imagine that Eby wouldn't feel sympathy for their causes.

      Once the B.C. Liberals elect a new leader, there's a chance that his right-wing opponents will put up a much stronger fight in his constituency of Vancouver-Point Grey.

      And the B.C. Greens might be already mobilizing over how they can win the seat if there's a three-way race.

      That's because Green candidates did exceptionally well in Vancouver-Point Grey in the recent school board and council by-elections.

      In the next provincial election, Site C opponents will clearly be lining up against the NDP and the B.C. Liberals.

      That's not to mention the headaches that Eby might face if there's a recall movement against him over his support for the Site C dam or over ongoing high housing prices in Vancouver.

      No doubt, any recall movement against Eby would be heartily supported by B.C. Liberals.

      They would like nothing better than to take out the man who's seen by many as Premier John Horgan's logical successor.

      Under provincial legislation, any recall campaign couldn't begin until 18 months after the last general election.

      The Site C dam decision also raises the prospect of recall campaigns against other NDP MLAs by disgruntled advocates of farmland, Indigenous rights, and low-cost renewable energy.

      To many of them, this B.C. NDP government doesn't look a whole lot different from the last B.C. Liberal regime.

      This is notwithstanding its moves to enhance protections for tenants, give welfare recipients a modest raise, eliminate bridge tolls, restore the B.C. Human Rights Commission, join the legal fight against the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion, and cancel the Ajax mine.

      Supporters of Peace Valley families have even been donating money to an online fundrazr campaign.

      It's been created to help those who are about to lose their homes to Site C as "they bear the weight of bills from experts hired to protect us all from this unnecessary project".

      The fundraising page includes this video featuring the voices of those whose lives are being ruined by the NDP government's Site C dam decision.

      The Peace Valley Environment Association posted this video on YouTube in 2014.

      The Site C dam is damn expensive

      In the meantime, the cost escalations on this project have been astonishing: approximately one percent per month. At this rate, the dam would cost many billions more by 2021, which is when the next election is scheduled.

      When the Gordon Campbell government first raised the prospect of developing the Site C dam in 2009, it was estimated at between $5 billion to $6.6 billion.

      Then it went to $7.9 billion, then $8.8 billion, and now the government is assuring us it will come in on-budget at $10.7 billion, not counting financing charges.

      If history offers any lessons, with each passing year, those estimates could easily continue to rise. And in a political sense, Horgan and the NDP will have to wear each new price tag.

      Meanwhile, the protests and the anger at the NDP from some of its former supporters show no sign of slackening.

      Last month, I wrote a commentary suggesting that Horgan and the NDP might want to engineer a spring election predicated around their approval of the Site C dam.

      Horgan and his inner circle could say there's clearly a lot of concern over this issue, so why not let the voters decide?

      It would give him an opportunity to win a majority AND stave off a referendum on proportional representation. It could also reconfigure the NDP caucus in ways that might suit its labour wing.

      An added advantage for the NDP: a spring election would catch the B.C. Liberals' flat-footed and with little money. The right wingers would be led by someone who's not nearly as well known across the province as Horgan.

      In addition, a spring election would offer the NDP the opportunity of winning seats in places like Cariboo South, Cariboo North, Prince George, and possibly even Kamloops.

      This is particularly so if the B.C. Liberals are led by someone like Andrew Wilkinson, who won't resonate with voters in these areas like Christy Clark did.

      That might offset potential NDP defeats in Vancouver-Point Grey or Nelson-Creston.

      In these two constituencies, environmentally minded voters could have trouble casting ballots for the ruling party in the wake of the Site C dam decision.

      More wins in the Interior would make the NDP a more blue-collar, resource-industry-oriented party.

      The white, working-class, so-called Reagan Democrats will have come back home to the NDP.

      If Andrew Wilkinson becomes the next B.C. Liberal leader, it could loosen his party's bonds with voters in the B.C. Interior.

      The marginalization of green-minded New Democrats

      Meanwhile, the influence of those latte-swilling environmentalists on Vancouver's West Side and in Nelson could be diminished at the cabinet table if Eby and Energy Minister Michelle Mungall were to be defeated.

      Here's an added bonus for the premier: Horgan wouldn't ever have to worry about Eby mounting a challenge against him in the same way that former premier Glen Clark's supporters believe that another attorney general, Ujjal Dosanjh, used his office as a springboard to become premier in 2000.

      Mungall is also a potential future leader, but she's been damaged by her appearance at the Site C dam announcement.

      People in her stomping ground of the Kootenays will never forgive the Social Credit government for the harm that the Columbia River Treaty and its dams did to their region. And they're not likely to look kindly on the NDP for doing the same thing to Peace Valley residents, particularly given the flat domestic demand for electricity in B.C. over the past decade.

      I know that many readers will dismiss all of this as a highly unlikely scenario or, at the very least, highly speculative.

      They'll point out that the B.C. Greens under Weaver want to keep the NDP minority government in power until they can get proportional representation.

      And NDP politicians, including Horgan, repeatedly profess their desire to bring in proportional representation.

      But as long as there's a minority government, union leaders are going to have difficulty getting some of the things they want, like a secret ballot in certification votes. The labour movement may not achieve other goodies on its wish list under proportional representation, either.

      And Horgan and his staff will always be looking over their shoulders to make sure that Eby, who's learning Mandarin, isn't setting the stage to take over the top job at some point in the future.

      If Horgan wins a majority and loses Vancouver-Point Grey in a spring election, these two issues are no longer a problem.

      The decision to complete the Site C dam might have made a majority government and the loss of Vancouver-Point Grey more likely. Why not go to the polls sooner before the Site C dam goes to $12 billion or $13 billion or $15 billion?

      Under these circumstances if I were David Eby, I might be considering switching to the B.C. Greens.

      He would be welcomed with open arms by B.C. Green Leader Andrew Weaver.

      Such a move could give Eby a legitimate shot at eventually becoming premier. That would free him to pursue truly green policies with full environmental and social costing on large-scale capital projects.