Letter

Anjali Appadurai  is the Leader the Party and the Planet Need

- Why I Won’t Be Voting for David Eby This Time

 

This is hard  for me to write. Dave Eby has been a friend for years and I actively campaigned for him when he ran in my riding. We worked together closely when I covered his housing advocacy at Pivot Legal in my role as a reporter and later, we were colleagues when he served brilliantly as Executive Director of the BC Civil Liberties Association, where I was a board member. He was an impressive, idealistic advocate and a tireless, effective administrator then and I was happy to endorse him as a candidate. This time, not so much.

 

I have secured an NDP membership, and I will be voting for Anjali Appadurai in the race to choose a new party leader and premier.

 

Although I write this more in sorrow than in anger, it must be said that the  candidacy of a young activist like Anjali Appadurai represents a real chance for much needed renewal within an NDP that has slid toward the murky middle of the road under John Horgan’s leadership. And Eby is pitching himself as a premier who will make “no radical changes,” if he succeeds Horgan. https://dogwoodbc.ca/news/bcndp-leadership-anjali-appadurai/

 

As the Dogwood Society commented in endorsing Appadurai, 

“… for those who have watched in frustration as one mega-project after another blasted through rivers and forests, as B.C. flooded and burned, as Indigenous people were arrested at gunpoint for defending their land, as friends and family lost jobs and hope, as homelessness soared alongside corporate profits, Eby’s commitment to ‘more of the same’ seems utterly tone-deaf.”

 

Pull quoteAnd speaking of tone deaf, Eby has managed to go public with two outstanding examples of  that unfortunate trait recently. In an ill-advised interview with the Vancouver Sun, the acknowledged front runner in the leadership race confided that  he was “frustrated” that the emergence of a real competitor in what had been expected to be an uncontested cake walk was going to create the demand for a time-consuming democratic debate and vote in the NDP, postponing his coronation by months. (https://vancouversun.com/news/local-news/david-eby-frustrated-that-challenge-by-climate-activist-delays-ndp-leadership-decision )

 

This response will be interpreted by many as reflecting an unwholesome attitude of entitlement and will do little to persuade the many disaffected former NDP voters who are flocking to the Appadurai campaign to reconsider.

 

In contrast, Appadurai told the Sun that “There’s no assumption of victory from the people who are representing my candidacy . There are legitimate interests presented by both candidates in this leadership race.”

 

In another tone-deaf gaffe, Eby recently endorsed the idea of involuntary confinement and forced “treatment” for people who use drugs and have had multiple overdoses.( https://vancouversun.com/news/bc-ndp-leadership-race-eby-pitches-involuntary-care-for-severe-overdose-cases )

 

This advocacy for a “lock ‘em up” approach to the crises of addiction and poisoned drug supply may be well designed to shore up his support on the centre  right, but it flies in the face of most expert opinion and seems heedless of the civil liberties implications of forced treatment. The threat to civil liberties inherent in this reckless proposal elicited a stinging rebuke from the BC Civil Liberties Association in a statement headlined “David Eby Knows Better.” (https://bccla.org/2022/08/david-eby-knows-better/ )

Meghan McDermott, writing for BCCLA, which Eby led for years,  concludes by saying “This attempt to score political points for his leadership campaign is misleading, immoral, and reckless. But David Eby knows that too.”

 

Appadurai was six when her family moved to Canada from Tamil Nadu . In high school, she campaigned for refugee rights and peace. As a university student, she gave a blistering speech on behalf of the youth delegation to the 2011 UN climate conference. It  went viral overnight.  She has worked as a climate campaigner with West Coast Environmental Law, Sierra Club BC and the Climate Emergency Unit.

 

Last year, Anjali ran as the NDP candidate for Vancouver-Granville in the federal election, losing by only a handful of votes. 

Co-workers who knew Appadurai at the Climate Emergency Unit, recently wrote: “In times of emergency, the leaders who make the biggest difference are those who rise above calls for incrementalism and invite us to fight the problem head-on. With Anjali, we not only have a leader who is ready to transform us for the better, we also have a friend who is ready to govern with compassion and a genuinely global outlook.”

 

We could expect Premier Appadurai to take bold positions in favor of Indigenous rights and against the depredations of rapacious pipeline builders. Her early support for striking BCGEU workers bodes well for a more collaborative approach to labour issues.

Speaking of labour issues, on a personal note, I was part of a delegation including representatives of the United Steelworkers, the BC Federation of Labour and other concerned citizens who travelled to Victoria last year to implore Eby in his then role as Attorney General to reverse a last minute decision by Crown prosecutors not to pursue criminal charges against the Peter Kiewit corporation and its managers in the horrific workplace death of Sam Fitzpatrick. https://thetyee.ca/Opinion/2021/09/20/Who-Killed-Sam-Fitzpatrick-David-Eby-Should-Recommence-Trial/       

 

"Although it lay within his legal authority to renew the criminal charges dropped by Crown prosecutors, he chose not to.  It would have been a brave, bold move on Eby’s part, a chance to expend some of his political capital to see that a worker killed by  corporate negligence got his day in court. It would have been a precedent setting case, seeing a big corporation charged under the Westray Act for the first time in history. ( https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2022/united-steelworkers-honour-westray-disaster-30-years-later-push-for-enforcement-of-law)

On August 26, Appadurai told Rabble.ca that

“My role as an insurgent candidate is to open the door for the voices of community and the voice of the grassroots to be lifted on this platform and to be lifted ultimately into the halls of power. We have a political culture right now that is myopic and that has lost sight of people’s lives and of the stakes of the future, and of the well-being of people and the planet.”

And Appadurai may well be good not only for the planet and for workers’ rights. She may very well represent a chance for the NDP in BC to redeem itself with the many disaffected former members who have left the party out of dismay over unkept environmental and indigenous rights promises and lukewarm support for labour issues. Under Horgan, party membership has plummeted from 20,000 to 11,000 thousand. But many of those unhappy former members are being inspired to give the party one more chance, and they are flooding back into party membership to support the Appadurai campaign. ( If you decide you would like to join them in this party renewal, you can register to join the BCNDP here https://www.anjaliforbc.ca/ up until September 4

 

Tom Sandborn

Vancouver, BC

 

Tom Sandborn lives and writes on unceded Indigenous land in Vancouver. He welcomes your feedback and story tips at tos65@telus.net


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