Is David Eby aiming to be Vancouver's next prime minister?

    1 of 4 2 of 4

      Very few prime ministers have ever represented B.C. ridings in Parliament.

      The first, Sir John A. MacDonald, never even visited Victoria when he won a by-election after losing his seat in Kingston, Ontario.

      In 1984, John Turner was prime minister for less than three months, losing this position in September in the same month he was elected to represent Vancouver-Quadra in Parliament.

      Turner never held a riding while he was PM.

      Kim Campbell had a slightly longer stint as prime minister, serving just over four months in 1993 while representing Vancouver Centre in Parliament.

      So there you have it: in the nearly 151 years since Confederation, a B.C. resident with a seat in B.C. has only served as prime minister for 134 days.

      It's easy to see why British Columbians might feel they're the Rodney Dangerfield of federal politics—they can't get no respect, as he would say.

      The latest example of the ROC (Rest of Canada) showing its contempt for B.C. is in Justin Trudeau and Alberta premier Rachel Notley trying to ram through the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion in the so-called "national interest".

      B.C. candidates who've run for federal party leaderships are perennial bridesmaids unless their names are Elizabeth May or Kim Campbell.

      Last year, Vancouver's Rick Peterson and North Vancouver's Andrew Saxton came 12th and 13th, respectively, in the federal Conservative race.

      Vancouver Quadra MP Joyce Murray was trounced by Justin Trudeau in the 2013 Liberal leadership race.

      And B.C. candidates are on a long losing streak in NDP leadership races.

      In 1971, B.C. NDP MLA Frank Howard came last in a race won by David Lewis.

      In 1975, B.C. NDP MLA Rosemary Brown came second behind the eventual winner, Ed Broadbent.

      In 1989, former B.C. premier Dave Barrett came second and B.C. MP Ian Waddell came sixth behind Audrey MacLaughlin.

      In 1995, B.C. MP Svend Robinson conceded after leading on the first ballot, clearing the way for Alexa McDonough's victory.

      Former MPs Svend Robinson and Libby Davies won many elections, but most New Democrats east of the Rockies didn't feel they had what it took to become a national party leader.
      Charlie Smith

      In 2003, the only B.C. candidate, Bev Meslo, came last as Jack Layton cruised to victory in the NDP leadership race. 

      In 2012, B.C. MP Nathan Cullen came third behind Tom Mulcair.

      And in 2017, the only B.C. candidate, MP Peter Julian, dropped out before the race ended. The NDP elected Jagmeet Singh as its leader.

      So why would I put a headline on this article raising the possibility of B.C. NDP attorney general David Eby becoming prime minister?

      Here are some things to consider:

      * Eby is making national news by conflating Chinese money laundering in casinos with high Vancouver real-estate prices and the illicit-overdose deaths of more than 1,400 British Columbians last year. Some observers simply shake their heads in wonder over how these three seemingly unrelated issues are being lumped together in this way, but the public and the media are eating it up.

      * Eby is also about to gain a national profile as B.C.'s point man in legal and political battles with the federal government over Justin Trudeau's support for the Kinder Morgan pipeline. 

      * Just as the prime minister is branding himself as the candidate for Big Oil, which can be fatal in Quebec, Eby will continue positioning himself as the sensible green-minded politician who can do the math around greenhouse gas emissions.

      * NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh has gotten off to a dismal start. His party has been annihilated in six by-elections since he took charge last October and he still doesn't have a seat in Parliament.

      Jagmeet Singh was elected NDP leader with the backing of many B.C. New Democrats, but that support could fade if he doesn't put in a good showing in the 2019 election.
      Jagmeet Singh

      The federal poll tracker has the NDP at just 17.9 percent. The Liberals and Conservatives are in a dead heat at 35.4 percent.

      If these numbers hold until next year, the Liberals would say that a vote for the NDP will elect a Conservative anti-abortionist, Andrew Scheer, as prime minister. Then the NDP vote would bleed over to the Liberals, giving Trudeau another mandate.

      After the election, the federal NDP would then dump Singh if he loses badly. If there's a leadership race, Eby could probably win it in a walk if Cullen doesn't seek the crown.

      After, all it's B.C.'s turn and Leap Manifesto coauthors Avi Lewis and Naomi Klein don't appear to be interested in the job. Perhaps Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie MP Alexandre Boulerice would seek the NDP leadership if he keeps his Montreal-area seat, but the party is hardly thriving in Quebec under Singh's leadership.

      Keep in mind that Eby would have an incentive to go federal. That's because he represents a traditional B.C. Liberal seat in the B.C. legislature.

      Vancouver-Point Grey is not a slam dunk for him given his party's support for the controversial Site C dam, the rising popularity of the B.C. Greens, and the elevation of West Side lawyer Andrew Wilkinson to the leadership of the B.C. Liberals.

      Unlike in past years, Attorney General David Eby (right, with NDP activist Major Sidhu and MLA Jagrup Brar) covered his head at the Vaisakhi celebration in Vancouver in 2018.
      Charlie Smith

      Climate change could help Eby's federal chances

      I've written before that the political axis is changing in B.C. from a right-left dichotomy to one that revolves around climate change.

      This evolution of the political divide in English Canada will increasingly dominate national politics as younger journalists and politicians take stock of the horror of rising greenhouse gas emissions.

      B.C. has been a harbinger of what's to come in the rest of Canada on many other issues over the years, including LGBT rights, cannabis legalization, antismoking laws, and looking upon illicit-drug addiction as a health issue.

      Expect the same to happen with the climate, with B.C. politicians like May and B.C. Green Leader Andrew Weaver leading the charge. 

      There are two types of political leaders in Canada right now: those who see climate change as the paramount issue facing the country, like May and Weaver, and those who see climate change as one of a multitude of priorities, like Trudeau and his cabinet.

      Trudeau's ideological disposition is in the vast majority now. But that will change.

      Eby, on the other hand, is one of those politicians who puts climate change at the top of his agenda, even if his party and his premier don't always do so. He walks and often cycles the talk.

      Many millennials, particularly in urban Canada, also see climate change as a paramount issue. This and Indigenous rights are what's driving the Kinder Morgan protests.

      With the help of the media, Eby's also pandering to those gullible enough to believe that Chinese money-laundering gamblers in B.C. casinos are playing a major role in putting home ownership out of reach of middle-class Canadians.

      If Eby becomes federal NDP leader, he'll be taking on Trudeau's Liberals after they've been in office for two terms. By 2023, Trudeau will be a 51-year-old politician with eight years as prime minister and a reputation as Big Oil's representative in Ottawa.

      Climate-conscious voters may well think it's time for a change. Scheer will be too conservative for most of them. So they could easily coalesce around Eby and the NDP.

      This would be even more likely if he's fluent in French by that time and he makes a name for himself as an advocate of provincial rights by winning the reference case on regulating diluted bitumen before the B.C. Court of Appeal. That would help the NDP in Quebec.

      He could credibly present himself as a national candidate, having grown up in Kitchener, attending law school in Halifax, and then working in B.C.

      So there you have it: Prime Minister David Eby.

      You heard it here first.

      And if you think I'm wrong, then put your money on Nathan Cullen.