A look at the BC NDP Leadership candidates

The winner of this small pool will be the next Premier and odds are skewed one way

Climate activist Anjali Appadurai (left) and Attorney General David Eby (right) are both NDP candidates running for B.C. premier. (Flickr/Treehouse Institute/BC NDP)

Climate activist Anjali Appadurai (left) and Attorney General David Eby (right) are both NDP candidates running for B.C. premier. (Flickr/Treehouse Institute/BC NDP)

Change is in the air for British Columbians, their government, and the governing New Democratic Party (BC NDP) now that Premier John Horgan is on his way out. Meaning that much like Alberta’s United Conservative Party and the federal Conservative Party, the BC NDP members will be electing a new party leader and by extension – in accordance with the procedures of parliamentary democracy – the new Premier.

The UCP and CPC currently have crowded candidates lists, although each have their stand-out leading options in the forms of Danielle Smith and Pierre Poilievre, respectively. The BC NDP contrasts by having only two candidates: Attorney General David Eby and climate activist Anjali Appadurai.

David Eby is the boy wonder of this race. The cabinet minister went unopposed for the first four months, which made many believe that the leadership election would be a coronation instead of a contest. 

Eby suggested, in response to the ongoing overdose crisis, that users with a history of repeated overdoses and “public crises” be admitted for involuntary treatment. This proposal has been met with mixed reception from health care experts: some call it a much-needed conversation starter, others decry it as a coercive measure that will lead to more overdoses. The BC Civil Liberties Association, an organization Eby was once the executive director for, has condemned this idea as a potential violation of Charter rights. 

Eby has indicated that he would make efforts to tackle the housing crisis, an issue he has a long history with, and has openly disagreed with so-called “Not in my Backyard (NIMBY) nonsense” that he feels will hold back solutions to the crisis. 

Anjali Appadurai is the underdog who faces a steep uphill battle for leadership and the premier role. She entered specifically to counteract the distinct lack of challengers and to make the race somewhat resemble an actual contest. 

An activist since high school, Appadurai drew attention with her 2011 speech to the UN Climate Change Conference in Durban, but considers herself anything but a single-issue candidate. She has spoken out about the need for changes within the BC NDP and in the government’s relationship to the public — one where a grassroots approach allows for a stronger connection between government and citizens. 

Appadurai has indicated that her role as the opposing candidate is intentionally disruptive while serving a purpose — namely to show there are more progressive alternatives to the BC NDP’s insiders. Her stance appears to be one that promotes optimism and people power, such as her decision to stand in solidarity with striking members of the BC General Employees’ Union. 

So, what is the bottom-line? To be real, this leadership contest is David Eby’s to lose. 

He has all the advantages going in: name recognition, the most endorsements, and experience as an MLA. Anjali Appadurai’s nearest familiarity with elected office was running in the 2021 federal election as the NDP candidate and coming in at a close second. 

The party is so confident in Eby’s ascension that, as previously noted, he spent the initial four months running unopposed. No other sitting Cabinet Ministers, backbenchers, or party members even raised a finger in defiance until Appadurai did. 

Everything is working in Eby’s favour for the time being. It’s one thing to win party leadership, but a different beast when it comes to a provincial election. Eby’s wipeout of the leadership race may not equal popular support later on, especially when the current situation can be made to look as if Eby’s rise was the result of a party cadre’s favouritism at the expense of the public’s wishes.