Martyn Brown: David Eby’s “frustrated” brain fart—too telling and too true for Anjali Appadurai

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      “I’m frustrated because obviously she appears to be the only other candidate, which means, assuming I’m successful, it delays moving into the office by several months,” David Eby told Postmedia News. “And I see some profound challenges that need some urgent responses.”

      It was that poorly worded, two-sentence brain fart—initially deemed so important, it was relegated to a tiny story on page A6 of today’s (Aug. 23) Vancouver Sun—that set off a feeding frenzy on social media.

      For its subject—Eby’s only challenger in the NDP leadership race, climate activist Anjali Appadurai, and her supporters—as also for the B.C. Liberals and for the intrepid reporter who wrote the story, it was all digital gold and certainly no joke.

      It didn’t take long for Appadurai to capitalize on Eby’s gaffe with her first tweet since August 17.

      That is, apart from her same-day retweets from the two environmental activist organizations that are so actively campaigning on her behalf. Namely, the Canadian wing of American-based and B.C.-based Dogwood.

      That obliged Eby to quickly apologize on Twitter.

      Which, in turn, prompted this response from the story’s authoring reporter, in appreciation of his “contrition” and for not throwing her “under the bus” by claiming he was misquoted.

      Her journalistic integrity being so central to her own story.

      Instead, he took his own self-inflicted lumps like a man, as it were. As she also merrily retweeted others’ criticisms of his too accurately quoted words.

      Not that Eby’s apology was about to stop the B.C. Liberals from piling on in droves, precisely because they all feel that Eby is bound to win the NDP leadership race and soon become premier.

      The enemy of their enemy is their friend, as the old adage goes.

      Which now has the Liberals rushing to Appadurai’s defence in the hope of boosting her profile and egging on her attacks on Eby and Horgan’s NDP government.

      Obviously, they want to help her inflict as much damage as possible on the man they’re sure will be King.

      They don’t fear her in the slightest, given how the NDP has stacked the leadership rules against anyone hoping to give Eby a real run for his money.

      “It smacks of hubris. And arrogance,” former B.C. Liberal cabinet member John Yap tweeted.

      He, who was obliged to resign as the presiding minister responsible for the ethnic “quick wins” scandal in Christy Clark’s government.

      “Such arrogance, entitlement & lack of respect,” B.C. Liberal MLA Peter Milobar snorted on Twitter.

      He, who not so long ago also branded Eby as “our presumptive next premier”. Albeit, before Appadurai entered the NDP leadership fray.

      “Disappointed to see David Eby’s comments dismissing the efforts of a young woman in politics,” B.C. Liberal Surrey South by-election candidate Elenore Sturko chimed in.

      I’m sure. Doesn’t help her at all in her current campaign to win that seat, or her chances of defeating an Eby-led government in the next provincial election.

      “Ummm, are you kidding @David Eby?? I guess it won’t be a coronation after all, guess that is how the democratic process works!” former Interim B.C. Liberal leader and long-time cabinet minister Shirley Bond chided.

      Followed by 10 more tweets and retweets, including retweeting Appadurai’s missive, in solidarity with her, I’m sure.

      It’s a little rich, coming from the party that made the arrogance of power and the dismissal of its democratic challengers an art form in government for 16 years.

      Including under my long watch, working alongside Bond and her colleagues as Premier Gordon Campbell’s top political staffer.

      Arrogance and entitlement were our middle names, as they also were Premier Christy Clark’s governing hallmarks.

      Not to be outdone, B.C. Liberal M.L.A. Renee Merrifield also gleefully slammed Eby.

      Yes, that sixth-place loser from the B.C. Liberal leadership race in which she so distinguished herself with her own half-witted defence of the antivax truckers’ convoy.

      “Could you imagine this entitlement as Premier? Scary.” she tweeted.

      Actually, yes, I can.

      Because I also worked for about 13 years with the guy who triumphed over her in that leadership race, would-be premier and B.C. Liberal Leader Kevin Falcon.

      And because I also saw this infamous tweet and watched this interview featuring another former B.C. Liberal leadership candidate, Val Litwin, who categorically rejected Falcon’s leadership.

      Video: Val Litwin explains why he won't support Kevin Falcon.

      It’s actually hilarious to see such false indignation coming from that party that I left behind in leaving politics and government going on 12 years ago.   

      Let’s be honest, hard as it is for all those who still have some partisan skin in the game, Eby’s comments were a tempest in a teapot.

      Mostly, this minor furor should serve as a cautionary tale to remind him and everyone in politics that it’s never smart to unwittingly denigrate or dismiss anyone running against them with careless comments that their opponents are sure to trumpet to their own advantage.

      Again, here is what Eby said.

      “I’m frustrated because obviously she appears to be the only other candidate, which means, assuming I’m successful, it delays moving into the office by several months,” he said. “And I see some profound challenges that need some urgent responses.” [Emphasis added.]

      A dumb choice of words to put it mildly, as he has acknowledged, especially for anyone in his position with a target already on his back as the runaway frontrunner.

      Given his political experience and usual smarts, he of all people should know better.

      After all, he seemed to suggest that he is “frustrated” by even having to compete for the job to which he feels entitled, because Appadurai’s hopeless candidacy has delayed his “moving into the office” as premier, and acting on  “some profound challenges that need some urgent responses”.

      But most of us know what he meant to convey.

      Ironically, I’m guessing, he meant the phrase “assuming I’m successful” as a qualifying caveat, to actually convey the opposite of what he did.

      He meant it to convey that he was not taking his victory for granted; but that given that hypothetical (“assumed”) outcome, with Appadurai as his only contender, it will necessarily mean that he won’t be able to act for “several months” on those “profound challenges” that need “some urgent responses”, which he is so keen to address as premier.

      Too telling and too true.

      It’s true that the Horgan government will be somewhat reluctant to act on the most pressing issues facing B.C. in any way that might unduly tie Eby’s hand as the NDP’s presumed premier-in-waiting.

      It’s true that the Horgan government will want to wait to hear what Eby sets out as his ideas and priorities for action before legislating any new laws in the upcoming fall session that might run counter to his agenda, if and when he becomes premier as expected.

      As I’ve pointed out before, it’s also true that the budget may well have to be delayed by a month or two as a result of the leadership contest.

      Treasury Board can’t put it to bed on its usual schedule with Eby out of cabinet.

      Whoever becomes B.C.’s next premier, most likely him, the draft budget will have to be substantially revisited to ensure it aligns with their priorities and campaign promises.

      All of those facts likely underpinned Eby’s “frustration” at not being able to expedite that direction any time soon, as he hopes to do several months hence, assuming he is successful in his bid to be elected NDP leader and premier.

      There’s no getting around the fact that Eby’s choice of words reinforced the impression that he feels like the inevitable NDP leader and premier-in-waiting and isn’t happy that Appadurai derailed his uncontested October 4 coronation.

      He probably feels that way, for good reason, no matter how dumb of him it was to essentially confirm his arrogant attitude of entitlement.

      It’s understandable he finds it frustrating being shut out of cabinet for these next several months in tackling those profound challenges, with urgent responses that he can’t wait to lead and direct as premier. Assuming he’s successful in defeating his only challenger in winning that job.

      Especially, with 48 of 55 NDP MLAs not including himself or Horgan supposedly supporting his leadership bid. If that number is, in fact, true.

      So far, the media hasn’t pressed him to name names in that regard. It should have, repeatedly, since Eby announced his leadership bid over a month ago.

      It’s that strength of caucus and party support that only Eby enjoys that led all of the other high-profile potential leadership candidates to decline to enter that contest, many of whom now openly support his candidacy.

      Indeed, I previously argued that if he is bound to win the NDP leadership anyway, expediting that outcome would have been the best thing for both the NDP, politically, and for the public.

      It would have avoided an inherently divisive and potentially messy leadership battle of the sort that’s now shaping up, which the B.C. Liberals and B.C. Greens alike hope will cleave the NDP apart along its structural fault lines.

      Yet, make no mistake: I’m delighted that Appadurai’s decided to make a go of it in fighting for serious climate action, fairer wages for unionized public sector workers, and radically progressive government.

      It’s a noble and worthy enterprise for her and the NDP alike in coming to grips with its own existential purpose.

      Do I think she will win?

      When hell freezes over.

      Nevertheless, I applaud her for making the contest interesting and having the courage of conviction to campaign for the job. As she also fights to rekindle New Democrats’ concern and passion for the issues and disenfranchised people that once lay at the very heart and soul of their party.

      As the Straight’s Charlie Smith observed, maybe this media-driven social media sensation will lead to more media coverage of her campaign, which would be a good thing.

      Apart from her official campaign launch event, which I didn’t see covered at all, her campaign to date seems to mostly amount to a sporadic social media effort, led mostly by environmental organizations and their supporters. All huge fans of hers, for good reason.

      I wonder if Eby’s careless comment wasn’t also a tacit indication that he sees little evidence yet of her push for a mass membership sign-up before the September 4 cut-off date for new NDP members to be eligible to vote in the leadership election.

      Appadurai’s clearly motivated her friends, colleagues, and admirers in the environmental movement to drive toward that goal, though I’d be shocked if they have yet encouraged thousands to join her cause as new or renewed NDP members.

      I’d also be surprised if Appadurai’s solidarity with the BCGEU and other public-sector unions has yet translated into many new NDP members, either actually or notionally supportive of her candidacy.

      I’ve previously argued that simply joining the NDP would be a smart move for the nearly 400,000 public sector workers who hope to pressure the Horgan government in acceding to their common campaign for COLA (cost of living adjustment).

      Regardless of whether or not they actually support Appadurai or would even cast a leadership ballot, after they are mailed out to all NDP members in mid-November, just joining the party would serve that political purpose.

      With only 11,000 members in the NDP, if Dogwood’s estimate is accurate, it wouldn’t take many new members to optically tip the balance of power in the leadership race to Appadurai.

      Have to say, I don’t see that happening, based on the limited social media support she seems to have generated so far from those potential comrades in arms from the public-sector unions.

      Then again, the BCGEU recently announced it has accepted the Public Service Agency’s invitation to go back to the bargaining table.

      Might that have anything to do with new NDP member sign-ups?

      Likely not, but Appadurai’s support of the BCGEU cause probably hasn’t hurt its efforts at the bargaining table, whether or not many of is members have newly joined the NDP.

      The Postmedia story also noted that “Eby qualified his statement by saying he also ‘loves’ that Appadurai … is running because she’s raising attention to the climate emergency.

      “I love it because as a young activist, I would have done it myself, I think,” Eby said.

      Some of his opponents have tried to characterize those comments as an inappropriate attack on a young woman that is at once sexist, patronizing, and dismissive.

      Nonsense. I think he meant them sincerely.

      In any case, she said as much herself weeks ago, in trying to also portray him as an aging apologist for the status quo in a government whose priorities are all “upside down”.

      "Ten years ago, [Eby] was in my position," Appadurai said in a CTV interview. "He was the activist and the insurgent and he's made a great contribution. I think at this time, though, the party is at a place where young people simply cannot get behind it."

      If anything, I’d say, Eby’s comments about her candidacy have been comparatively gracious in comparison to her characterizations of him and his government.

      Anyway, Appadurai’s had a great initial run at defining herself and her candidacy in contrast to Eby and to her own party’s government.

      She’s done a good job of highlighting her heartfelt concerns for meaningful climate action and for all public servants’ fight for COLA, same as all MLAs, including Eby, already enjoy.

      Beyond that, her website is dead silent on what she would do if she is elected to lead the NDP and B.C. as premier.

      What are her big ideas for radical reform and more progressive government?

      What, specifically, would she do so differently to improve health-care delivery, education, social services, community safety, transportation infrastructure, or other priorities that all cry out for new leadership?

      What’s her plan to fight inflation, enhance affordability, address the housing crisis, combat homelessness, or address the opioid and addictions crisis?

      Job creation? Economic growth? What’s the plan, Anjali? Do tell.

      For without something more specific to say in that regard, you’re even less likely to win your leadership bid.

      Prior to Eby’s gaffe and given her six-day Twitter hiatus, I was beginning to wonder whether her leadership campaign might be as much aimed at raising her profile in pursuing a second bid as the federal NDP candidate for Vancouver Granville.

      The NDP leadership debates might be telling that regard, as she and Eby go head-to-head in what now promises to be an even more compelling must-see spectacle.

      I’ll bet that those debates are the events that Eby is now most dreading and will find most frustrating.

      Especially if she lets loose on him in person as she has gone after him and his government on social media—which she probably won’t, if the NDP party brass can convince her to tone down her attacks in her own long-term political career interests.

      This little dust-up just further set the stage for that expected donnybrook.

      For his part, Eby better hope he does a much better job of expressing himself in those forums.

      Martyn Brown was former B.C. premier Gordon Campbell’s long-serving chief of staff, the top strategic adviser to three provincial party leaders, and a former deputy minister of tourism, trade, and investment. He also served as the B.C. Liberals' public campaign director in 2001, 2005, and 2009, and in addition to his other extensive campaign experience, he was the principal author of four election platforms. Contact him via email at