Martyn Brown: Want to upset the Eby apple cart or choose B.C.’s next premier? Join the B.C. NDP by September 4

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      It’s a remarkable opportunity, when you think about it.

      You could potentially cast the deciding vote in choosing who will become B.C.’s next premier.

      All you have to do is join the B.C. NDP before September 4 to be eligible to vote in the party’s leadership election, which will run from November 13 to December 3, when the winner is announced.

      With barely a week to go before that deadline, the clock is rapidly ticking.

      Although it’ll cost you 10 bucks to exercise that privilege.

      Still, with only 11,000 or so current NDP members, it sure wouldn’t take much to influence the outcome, whatever your motive.

      That’s a far cry from the nearly 1.9 million eligible votes cast in the last provincial election that handed John Horgan the keys to the premier’s office for a second term.

      No matter who you supported in any general election, your vote really only counted in deciding who would become premier if your preferred local candidate won their seat in B.C.’s 87-member legislative assembly.

      As such, your odds of actually determining the next premier were doubly slim. Especially if you happen to live in a riding that almost never votes your way.

      In this case, however, your vote to choose the next premier would have much more clout, for two reasons.

      First, because of the relatively minuscule total number of votes that will be cast in this NDP leadership election. They will all count equally: one member, one vote.

      And second, because each vote cast will also effectively serve to directly decide who sits in the premier’s chair, as the presumed leader of the government caucus, according to convention.

      In a provincial election, by contrast, each vote only indirectly impacts that outcome by deciding who gets to sit in the government caucus, since we don’t vote for leaders or premiers, as such.

      Whoever wins this NDP leadership election will also become premier, assuming the government caucus is agreeable, something we perhaps shouldn’t take for granted.

      Especially with 48 of the 55 NDP MLAs excluding Premier John Horgan and David Eby now ostensibly supporting the latter’s bid to become leader and premier, with none of the seven others yet supporting the only other declared candidate, Anjali Appadurai.

      Although I’m still waiting to see some hard evidence of that claim.

      Thus far, Eby hasn’t released the identities of those supposed supporters, happily supported in his silence by the media laggards who haven’t pressed him at all to name names.

      Yet, never forget, in our parliamentary system of responsible government, the person who gets to serve as premier is the one who has the singular ability to demonstrate to the Lieutenant Governor that they enjoy the confidence of the legislature.

      So, technically, at least, whoever wins the NDP leadership will only become or stay premier as long as they can convince the L.G. they have majority support in the legislature. Ultimately, that individual’s claim to power will ride on each confidence vote.

      Which, as Horgan demonstrated, could be secured with the support of as few as 43 NDP MLAs and the two B.C. Green MLAs.

      Former attorney general David Eby could govern with the support of a majority of MLAs in the legislature even if he lost his party's leadership race.

      Put another way, Appadurai could theoretically become and remain premier in this parliament even if 14 NDP MLAs opted not to support her, if Sonia Furstenau and Adam Olsen supported her government in confidence votes. 

      That most unlikely scenario aside, remember, it is the elected caucus that always retains the voting power where it most counts: in the legislature. No one else.

      It is the caucus that always retains the ability to effectively decide whether to keep their party leader in power or to send them packing, for any reason.

      And it is ultimately only the government caucus MLAs who get to decide who commands the confidence of the legislature that carries with it the right to lead them in power as premier.

      Just ask Boris Johnson.

      Or more to the point, Gordon Campbell, Gordon Wilson, Adrian Dix, Carole James, Glen Clark, Mike Harcourt, or Bill Vander Zalm. To cite only a handful of relatively recent examples from B.C.’s turbulent political history.

      They all learned the hard way who ultimately really holds the power in their party when things go south, if they lose the confidence of their caucus.

      Just saying.

      When Bill Vander Zalm lost support of his Socred caucus, it was lights out for his premiership.
      Stephen Hui

      Whoever wins the NDP leadership won’t serve long as premier if they can’t keep their caucus on-side. Or at least win a snap election if that premier is granted a request to dissolve the parliament in trying to answer such dissent with a fresh mandate from the people.

      Which is no small task at the best of times, let alone in the wake of a hard fought leadership contest.

      Least of all, if it produces a winner who essentially ran against those MLAs’ collective voting record and “upside-down” priorities in government, as Appadurai is doing. Fun as it certainly is for the rest of us to watch her gutsy attack on business-as-usual politics and government unfold.

      Be that as it may, if you’re not a member of another party, you now have a very rare and potent chance to have a direct say on who should next rule B.C.

      Maybe you want to support the Establishment's favourite front runner, either because you’re a fan of Eby or think he’s the best leader to re-elect the NDP and defeat Kevin Falcon’s B.C. Liberals—err, conservatives—by any new party name.

      Maybe you want to cast one more vote for Eby as the safest choice to preserve the NDP’s governing status quo.

      Maybe you are impressed by his wealth of cabinet and legislative experience in leading so many tough files. And by his prior history as an outspoken lawyer, community activist, and champion of human rights and social justice.

      Or maybe you really want to see Appadurai somehow defy the odds to win the race and lead the NDP and B.C.—damn the torpedos.

      If only, to reclaim the NDP for disaffected members who feel it has strayed too far away from its supposed raison d’être as an ardently progressive force for unflinching democratic socialism.

      Maybe you’d love to shock the world by electing as leader and premier such a committed climate activist, who has also had the courage to stand in solidarity with B.C.’s unionized public sector workers in their fight for inflation-protected wage hikes.

      Maybe you think it’s high time that the NDP and B.C. both were led by a “young, brown woman”, as she describes herself, who proudly represents a radically different vision for government priorities and action.

      A 32-year-old veteran climate warrior and former federal NDP candidate.

      Someone who is proudly progressive and arguably more generationally relevant—relatability-wise, as a person of colour, and most importantly, in terms of her ability to identify with younger voters’ most pressing concerns in answering B.C.’s societal needs in the current context.

      Appadurai is certainly media savvy and an excellent communicator, as Eby is, and also every bit as telegenic as the likes of Justin Trudeau or Christy Clark.

      Better yet, she is clearly twice as intelligent as either of them, given their boneheaded tenures in power—which Eby also is.

      For better or worse, her agenda is truly transformational in scope and focus.

      Not only in respect of its radical prescription for urgent climate action and other environmental protection, predicated on ending fossil-fuelled and other non-renewable growth.

      But also, in its core aspiration to redistribute unseemly large corporate and individual wealth: to better support B.C.’s most needy and vulnerable citizens; to pay for retooling our economy to support sustainable growth; and to finance desperately needed investments in public services and infrastructure.

      Not to mention Appadurai’s commitment to more aggressively protect Indigenous rights and title as a long overdue imperative in fundamentally transforming that most glaring fault line that has historically disenfranchised British Columbia’s first inhabitants and founding cultures.

      She would go far further and faster in furtherance of reconciliation than the Horgan government has dared to hazard in its groundbreaking efforts and laudable national leadership.

      Supporting either of those candidates—Eby or Appadurai—might be reason enough to join the NDP.

      Their campaigns are both working very hard to earn your support.

      Be it also through the active efforts of environmental activist groups now banging the drum for Appadurai, like the Canadian wing of American-based and B.C.-based Dogwood.

      Or with Eby’s loyal recruiters in the NDP caucus, like his new Number One fan, Bowinn Ma, who seems to think that screaming her devotion in all capitalized letters will do so much more to help his cause.

      And maybe her future cabinet aspirations, as well, wanting to prove her worth, perhaps also to offset her initial tweets that might have left us all with the wrong impression that she would be more inclined to support someone like Appadurai.

      Then again, if you’re just motivated by strategic considerations—or are perhaps even a tad Machiavellian—it might also be worth a ten-spot to sign up as a new NDP member before the September 4 voting eligibility cut-off.

      Bear in mind, you don’t even have to actually vote in the leadership, if you really can’t support either candidate and your main aim is just to make Eby or the Horgan government sweat.

      Maybe you just want to upset the Eby apple cart, or make him really fight for the crown to which he seems to feel entitled.

      Maybe you are one of those nearly 400,000 unionized public sector workers who wants to bring more pressure to bear on the Horgan government, to force it to rethink its resistance to COLA (cost-of-living adjustments) at the collective bargaining table.

      If only a few thousand union members did that before September 4, it would send shivers down Horgan’s spine.

      Mostly, out of fear that those new members who were not signed up and tracked by Eby’s camp are potentially Appadurai supporters, determined to rock his government’s boat.

      He was, after all, still at the cabinet table when the Horgan government approved its bargaining mandate aimed at denying the 33,000 BCGEU members working in government—and indeed, all 400,000 unionized public-sector workers—the COLA they are seeking in their new contracts.

      Never mind that Horgan and all cabinet ministers voted themselves a 10 percent retroactive raise on their ministerial base salary, worth $10,000 annually to him and $5,600 to all them.

      And notwithstanding the COLA salary protection guaranteed to all MLAs, which was also recently recommended by legendary labour mediator Vince Ready in settling the Sea-to-Sky transit dispute.

      Here’s your chance to remind him and all government MLAs that job action isn’t the only way to get their attention, with Appadurai openly on your side.

      B.C. NDP leadership candidate Anjali Appadurai (left) is supporting public-sector workers in their strike for a cost-of-living adjustment.
      Anjali Appadurai

      Or maybe, you are really afraid of how an NDP government would rule B.C. under either Eby or Appadurai.

      Maybe you simply regard one of them as the lesser of two evils and want to stop the person you most fear from becoming B.C.’s next premier.

      It’s a legitimate concern and a worthy incentive in its own right to join the NDP in hoping to influence the leadership outcome.

      Or if you’re really conniving, maybe you actually support the B.C. Liberals or B.C. Greens, if not as a party member.

      That is, if you are also prepared to fudge the membership sign-up form that includes this stipulation:

      “By submitting this form you are agreeing to the following statement: I am not a member nor supporter of any other political party. I declare that I accept and will abide by the Constitution, principles, and policies of the NDP of B.C. and of Canada.”

      Then again, the NDP wants every new member to commit to that undertaking even though it hasn’t posted its constitution, its principles, or its policies on its website.

      So who’s to know what the hell that stipulation is supposed to mean to anyone, anyway?

      As the party says, “If you're a Canadian citizen or permanent resident who lives in British Columbia, and you're at least 12 years of age, you can become a member of the BC NDP and have your say this fall on who should lead our party.” 

      Fine. That must mean you, right?

      And maybe even your prepubescent children and barely-teenage kids who would love to help choose B.C.’s next premier, even if they won’t be able to vote for that person in a general election for maybe another five or six years.

      What’s that, you’re maybe thinking to yourself?

      Ah, but you don’t like getting the subsequent NDP junk mail, emails and fundraising letters and/or calls that the membership form also expressly authorizes?

      No problem. You can always cancel your party membership any time later you like and register a specific new free email just for that purpose.

      Heck, one day you might actually get hold of a copy of that NDP constitution, principles, and policies.

      That might help you to decide after becoming eligible to vote in this leadership contest if you want to stay a member or terminate your strategic relationship of convenience with the NDP. 

      In the meantime, if you want to be a player in this high-stakes political game, you might venture just this one low-risk hand at the $10 members’ table.

      In this case, the House doesn’t hold the advantage and neither does the Dealer.

      You hold all the cards and get to play them for all their worth.

      Blackjack or bust, it’s only ten bucks, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

      Either way, it’s a good gamble to press your strategic interest or advantage.

      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