https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2022/10/21/who-is-david-eby-the-unlikely-journey-of-bcs-next-premier.html

VANCOUVER—British Columbia will get a new premier-designate Friday after a tumultuous NDP leadership race that ended with the disqualification of one of the two candidates.

In the wake of that abrupt conclusion, David Eby, the province’s former attorney general, is set to become premier, replacing John Horgan.

Eby’s only opponent in the leadership contest, Anjali Appadurai, was disqualified Wednesday night. As it was past the deadline for new candidates to enter the party contest, Eby will become leader, thus premier-designate, Friday morning.

At a press conference in Vancouver on Thursday afternoon, Eby said he had “mixed feelings” about how the race had turned out. He said he had sent an email out to NDP members encouraging them to stay involved.

“Like all New Democrats, I am excited about having discussions about where our government is and where we should be going and (I) have had those discussions across the province,” he said.

Eby’s email said he knew it would be hard for those who joined the party to support Appadurai and said he is committed to listening to member feedback.

How the 46-year-old Eby has arrived at the premier’s office is not the only unique chapter in his biography.

Coming from a background of activism for marginalized people, he was introduced to the province as a far-left figure who advocated for those living on the streets of the city’s Downtown Eastside.

Twenty years later, the tall and slim lawyer-turned-politician originally from Kitchener is about to lead the third largest province in the country.

It hasn’t been a smooth start.

The disqualification of Eby’s sole rival prompted to accusations from her supporters of backroom engineering by the party establishment.

Appadurai was disqualified over “serious improper conduct” related to signing up new members with the help of environmental organization the Dogwood BC, according to a report from the party’s chief electoral officer, Elizabeth Cull.

“The improper co-ordination with third parties (primarily Dogwood) played such a significant role in the Appadurai campaign that it is impossible to create a level playing field at this point, and thus impossible to restore the leadership election campaign to a state of integrity in which I could have confidence,” Cull’s report said.

While Cull’s report lays out the reasons for Appadurai’s ejection, her supporters insist she’s been unfairly treated. Meanwhile, at a news conference in Victoria on Thursday, the outgoing premier gave Eby his full support.

“This isn’t how anybody wanted this to roll,” Horgan said. “Most British Columbians, nearly five million souls, are getting on with their lives and they’re worried about affordability, about housing, about health care. They’re not worried about someone’s hurt feelings that they circumvented the rules and got called out on it.”

Horgan said he was disappointed with how the race unfolded, but added he was “very pleased” Eby will be taking over when Horgan steps down in December. Horgan, who has battled cancer, decided to leave politics.

Gerald Baier, an associate political science professor at the University of British Columbia, said Eby is not an “obvious” retail politician who, though coming off a bit “cerebral,” manages to relate to people through modesty and his image of a being family man.

“He lives in an apartment on the UBC campus, he’s not living in a big, rented house or something as often party leaders find themselves in,” Baier said. “All those things are true to the kind of progressive politician he wants people to understand that he is.”

Nearly two decades ago, Eby spent his days helping the city’s most vulnerable file complaints against the Vancouver Police Department and other authorities for discriminatory treatment while working at the Pivot Legal Society.

The society, founded in 2001, works on behalf of the impoverished or otherwise marginalized people to pursue government policy in their interest, or challenge policy that is not.

Before being elected to the legislature, he also served as the president of the HIV/AIDS Legal Network, the executive director of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association and was an adjunct professor of law at UBC. He also wrote a handbook on arrest rights.

The years spent in Vancouver’s activist sphere didn’t hurt him when running for his first seat as an MLA in one of the wealthiest neighbourhoods in the country.

In 2013, Eby took out premier and incumbent for Vancouver—Point Grey, Christy Clark, causing Clark to run in a byelection in a safe riding in the province’s Interior to take a seat back in the legislature. Eby soon became the NDP’s housing critic.

Andy Yan is the director of Simon Fraser University’s city program, has known Eby since his days at Pivot.

While Eby was housing critic for the NDP, he and Yan released a controversial 2015 report on buyers from mainland China and their impact on the Vancouver housing market.

Not long after their report, Eby would find himself on the other side of the legislature.

In 2017, the B.C. New Democrats and provincial Green Party toppled the Liberals, freshly hobbled by the electorate, and entered a confidence and supply agreement to run the province. Eby was made attorney general.

Once in the role Eby set out to shed light on the money-laundering problem in the province, launching inquiries into casinos and other forms of money laundering.

During one of these inquiries, the Cullen Commission into money laundering, he took aim at federal agencies, accusing them of not co-operating with the inquiry.

He also set out to tackle the province’s public auto insurance agency, a Crown corporation plagued by problems, causing Eby to famously dub the situation a “financial dumpster fire.”

No-fault insurance was brought into the system to help address the problems.

His platform for party leader and thus premier included a promise to bring in a flipping tax on real estate sales and a right-of-first-refusal law to prevent corporations from buying rental housing.

Yan said Eby faces some challenges working on “complicated files” plaguing the province. He said the premier-designate listens to those he works with and hopes it continues to listen to a variety of voices.

“He worked in the Downtown Eastside, he dealt with some of the complicated things you can face through extended and extreme levels of poverty,” Yan said. “Trying to make difficult solutions where you’re not going to make everyone happy.”

Yan, a notable housing and development analyst in B.C., said the housing platform included some ideas he liked and some he didn’t like. But believes Eby will listen to people in the search for answers.

“It’s really governance in this age of angst and this age of rage that is incredibly challenging,” he said.

Eby has seen some friction with is former circle recently. In August, the B.C. Civil Liberties Association issued a statement rebuking his openly mulling the idea of involuntary treatment for drug users in the province.

“The right to decide what is done to one’s own body is essential,” wrote the BCCLA’s Meghan McDermott in an Aug. 24 statement challenging Eby. “Forced treatment of people who use drugs cannot be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.”

But not being popular with everyone in the old sphere may not be a problem for Eby.

Yan points out you can’t be just the premier of Vancouver and the entire province and its issues must be taken into consideration.

In a similar vein, Baier said he isn’t concerned about the leadership race and its fallout hurting Eby.

“They’re going to win the next election, not by winning 90 per cent in East Vancouver, but by winning 45 per cent in Langley,” he said. “They don’t have to please every climate activist on the east side of Vancouver.”

With files from The Canadian Press

Jeremy Nuttall is a Vancouver-based investigative reporter for the Star. Follow him on Twitter: @Nuttallreports