Rumours have been swirling for weeks that the B.C. NDP was going to disqualify Anjali Appadurai from the party’s leadership campaign. Appadurai’s campaign was initially dismissed by the NDP establishment as a fringe campaign and protest vote with no real shot to win. However, with surging momentum behind her campaign and impressive recruitment numbers, she quickly emerged as a real threat to David Eby, the establishment candidate to replace John Horgan.
Eby’s uninspiring campaign proved unable to respond politically to Appadurai’s program and her criticisms of the Horgan NDP government. His campaign could not match the enthusiasm and momentum behind Appadurai’s. In response to this and to prevent a potentially embarrassing loss for the NDP establishment, the party apparatus, along with the corporate press, was fully mobilized on Eby’s behalf to bury Appadurai’s campaign and guarantee his “victory” in the leadership race.
Based on flimsy evidence at best, the B.C. NDP apparatus launched an investigation of Appadurai’s campaign in order to justify her disqualification for alleged violations of NDP membership rules and election laws. These
unproven allegations smears include accusations of campaign finance violations and a “hostile takeover” of the NDP by the Green Party and other environmental groups. Appadurai’s campaign had not yet even been officially approved by the party pending this investigation.
The results of the NDP’s internal investigation to determine the approval or disqualification of Appadurai’s campaign were to be released today (Oct. 19) but were leaked on the evening of Oct. 18. The ban hammer has dropped. The report by NDP chief electoral officer Elizabeth Cull predictably recommends disqualifying Appadurai. The party brass is set to vote tonight (Oct. 19) on whether to uphold Cull’s decision, which it is naturally expected to do.
The establishment campaign
David Eby, Attorney General and Minister of Housing in the B.C. NDP government, is considered the natural successor to Horgan. He is very clearly the establishment candidate, telling reporters when he launched his campaign that “British Columbians shouldn’t expect any radical departures if I’m successful.” He has a large campaign team and the support of the party brass and apparatchiks, as well as the support of 48 of the 57 NDP MLAs in the B.C. legislature who have been canvassing for him.
Keeping in mind that we are talking about an NDP government, during Eby’s tenure as Minister of Housing, British Columbia has become the eviction capital of Canada, with one of the worst rental markets in the country and one of the most expensive in the world. Appadurai has been critical of Eby and his role in the party leadership, saying, “ten years ago, he was the insurgent, the activist. But what David Eby represents right now is the party establishment. It is the party status quo.”
When Appadurai launched her leadership campaign, Eby and the party establishment didn’t appear to consider her bid much of a threat. In fact, when she announced her leadership bid, Eby was publicly frustrated at the idea of having to go through a leadership race at all. Both he and the party establishment looked forward to a simple coronation. For a time he was the only candidate and had that remained the case he would have been acclaimed as NDP leader and premier shortly after Oct. 4, the deadline to enter the leadership race.
Annoyed that becoming premier would be delayed by a couple of months with Appadurai entering the race, he publicly 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.”
Eby has run a very “stay-the-course” establishment campaign. When he said that people should not expect radical departures from his government, he prefaced this by saying, “I think what British Columbians are looking for is that consistency and that stability, and continuing in the direction that we were headed, and delivering for them on the issues of the day: family doctors, the rising cost of fuel and groceries, and housing.”
The NDP has done nothing in terms of family doctors, inflation and the cost-of-living crisis, or housing. So what do Eby’s proposed consistency and stability mean in British Columbia? There is a considerable mood of anger and discontent developing in the province, especially among the youth. The NDP government under Horgan has presided over the opioid crisis, the housing crisis, homelessness crisis, the doctors shortage, the ferries crisis, heat dome deaths, poor disaster management in the flooding last year, logging of old growth forests, museum scandals, etc. Many people on social media were ripping up NDP party cards in disgust following the attacks by the Horgan government on activists at Fairy Creek and the armed raids against the Wet’suwet’en.
Staying the course means more of the above disasters, scandals, and betrayals. Many people are beyond sick of it and want change. This is especially the case among the youth, and on the left among climate activists, as well as among current and former members of the NDP frustrated with the direction Horgan’s NDP took once in power.
The NDP had promised to protect old growth forests, for example, and proposed other progressive reforms in relation to climate, housing, and the economy. Once in power the party reneged on all these promises and instead catered to the interests of the oil and gas corporations, all the while presenting itself as the most efficient managers of capitalism.
The “insurgent” campaign
Appadurai has a climate activist background with the Sierra Club B.C., and was the federal NDP candidate for the Vancouver Granville seat in the last federal election (she lost by just 423 votes). She has run her grassroots campaign on a program of progressive reforms and immediate action on climate change. As a result, she has been dubbed the “insurgent” candidate.
Initially her campaign platform lacked many specifics—but her message was clear. “They tell us that sweeping and transformative changes aren’t possible. They tell us that the only thing we can do is tinker around the edges and make incremental change. But I don’t believe them. And that’s why I am running to be the leader of the B.C. NDP.”
Her overall messaging would have been enough to perk up the ears of many who were angry and frustrated at the B.C. NDP’s many betrayals. She was very critical of the NDP and its leadership. As the Daily Hive Vancouver said, “Just a few years ago, Anjali Appadurai looked at the BC NDP and saw a party filled with activists and climate champions who were on the verge of taking power and making the kind of sweeping reforms they’d been promising for more than a decade. Now, five years into the NDP as government, she sees something different: An ageing, out-of-touch, listless group of New Democrats who have made so many compromises, watered down so many promises, and are so focused on staying in power that they are barely distinguishable from the political rivals they were once desperate to topple.”
Appadurai has recently started rolling out the specifics of her platform. She is yet to release all her campaign policies but recently released her health-care platform. As reported by the CBC, these policies include:
- raising the pay for registered nurses by 25 per cent.
- providing free and accessible mental health counselling to all British Columbians.
- scaling up community health centres in every health authority to bring family physicians, social workers, nurse practitioners and mental health professionals under the same roof.
- creating more attractive alternatives to the fee-for-service model for family doctors.
- increasing salaries for home care and long-term care workers and implementing cost of living increases.
- immediately implementing a provincial safe supply program.
- removing the three month wait period for new immigrants or people returning from abroad to access health care.
The corporate media has argued that these policies are either too expensive or too similar to what the B.C. government is already doing. Neither of these is really true. Appadurai has put these policies forward as a “push back against privatization” and a means to begin rebuilding the health-care system from the effects of COVID and “decades of under-investing”. The B.C. NDP does not use this language when talking about health-care policies nor does it propose anything resembling Appadurai’s platform. Her reforms in and of themselves would not fix the health-care system, but they remain bold policies nonetheless and would go well beyond anything proposed or implemented by the B.C. NDP.
The NDP under Horgan presided over the deterioration of health care and the piecemeal privatization of the system. With Eby in power, we shouldn’t expect a departure from how the NDP has managed the health-care system so far.
Appadurai has also recently released a climate action plan. As reported, these policies include “free transit in urban centres, an immediate moratorium on new fossil fuel extraction permits and a new oil and gas excess profits tax.” The plan also proposes a “green job guarantee program” to provide unionized jobs to anyone who needs one. She is also proposing a zero-carbon building code for all new buildings by 2026, a ban on gas connections to new buildings by 2024, and a new Crown corporation that will provide jobs retrofitting all existing buildings across the province. Appadurai also pledged that in government she would cancel all remaining subsidies to oil, gas and coal companies and require that oil and gas companies clean up abandoned wells, toxic waste and decaying infrastructure.
These policies in and of themselves will not solve the climate crisis. These reforms make no mention of the elephant in the room—the private ownership of the oil and gas companies. You cannot control what you do not own. With the private ownership of these companies left intact, and the capitalist system as whole left untouched, these policies would be difficult to implement at best. However, her platform does represent significant reforms and a push back against the oil and gas corporations beyond anything proposed currently by the NDP in B.C., or Alberta for that matter.
By the numbers
It has been widely reported that under Horgan’s leadership, membership in the B.C. NDP dwindled from around 20,000 to 11,000. The NDP has refused to confirm these numbers, but the Toronto Star indicated that the 11,000 membership figure was reported at the party’s most recent convention. In any case, the loss of some 9,000 members during Horgan’s tenure, almost half the total membership, is widely considered to be accurate.
The people who left the NDP did so in disgust at the party’s drift to the right and the leadership’s repeated capitulations and betrayals. Appadurai’s success in the leadership campaign was always dependent on whether she could sign up enough supporters to the party before the Sept. 4 cut-off for new NDP members to be eligible to vote in the leadership election.
By all accounts she has done this successfully and signed up far more new members than the Eby campaign. Since the cut off for signing up new members in early September, the NDP has yet to confirm any official membership numbers. Rumours in the press indicate that Appadurai has signed up more members than Eby. It is being reported that Appaduria signed up as many as 10,000 new members compared to 6,000 by Eby. Appadurai herself has said that she does not know the exact number of new members her campaign has signed up, but heard it could be as many as 14,000.
If accurate, these numbers would be significant. It would mean that the Appadurai campaign had a real shot at beating Eby. And this is precisely why the NDP apparatus launched a smear campaign to discredit her candidacy. Her leadership candidacy was never approved pending the NDP’s investigation into these allegations, and then they simply disqualified her behind closed doors in order to guarantee Eby’s victory.
Several allegations were made against the Appadurai campaign by the NDP and in the press. The evidence for these accusations is flimsy at best, and in many cases non-existent. This lack of evidence, however, did not stop the NDP apparatchiks from launching a coordinated smear campaign against Appadurai in order to justify her disqualification.
A good article in The Breach from late September details how this campaign unfolded:
As Anjali Appadurai’s campaign for leader of the B.C. New Democrats has surged, observers inside and close to the party are warning she is being subjected to smear tactics aimed at disqualifying her candidacy.
Until early September, former provincial Attorney General David Eby looked to have an easy route to victory—and the premier’s office—with Appadurai viewed as an inconvenient protest vote.
However, reports that Appadurai has signed up the largest number of new members has appeared to spark anxieties among the party’s establishment and abruptly shifted the tone of the campaign.
Over the last few weeks, a combination of MLAs and lobbyists close to the party have amplified messages on Twitter, email, on talk shows, and through phone calls that amount to what some members are calling a “smear campaign.”
They’ve ranged from claims of a “Green party takeover,” vague assertions that the campaign is “not grassroots,” and unsubstantiated allegations that Appadurai’s campaign and those of her supporters are flouting NDP rules and B.C.’s election laws—which have prompted an ongoing investigation both by the party and Elections BC.
Some of those leading the public attacks are part of an emerging class of NDP-connected lobbyists, who appear to be worried they could lose their insider access under an Appadurai government and be unable to deliver for their clients, many of whom are fossil fuel companies.
A group of former NDP officials-turned-lobbyists with connections to Eby and to the fossil fuel industry have been leading the attack against Appadurai.
Michael Gardiner, a former Executive Director of the BC NDP and current president of lobbying firm 360 Strategies, has been active on Twitter and in the media criticizing Appadurai’s campaign. He has lobbied the BC government on behalf of the Tourmaline Oil Corp, the Pembina Pipeline Company and Telus, among others.
Jeff Ferrier, who ran communications for the B.C. Minister of Health for much of 2021, is a Senior Vice President at Hill and Knowlton and has criticized the Appadurai campaign on Twitter and a well-known BC politics podcast. He has lobbied the BC government on behalf of Chevron Canada, Kinder Morgan, Ferus Natural Gas Fuels, and Uber Canada, among others. Hill and Knowlton was criticized in 2021 for their public relations work for multiple fossil fuel giants.
Raj Sihota, a former Executive Director of the BC NDP and current Vice President of 360 Strategies, has told reporters that long-time NDP members are uneasy about new members joining. Sihota has lobbied the BC government on behalf of Western Forest Products, Telus, and Google.
Another Vice President at Strategies 360 is Stephen Howard, who formerly served as a senior aide to David Eby.
A source within the BC NDP’s provincial council described the mood within the party as “very strange and strained” since the leadership race became a contested one.
“As soon as the membership deadline hit, all of a sudden a few things were noticeable—Twitter trolls, the Dogwood controversy, insinuations that Anjali is a Green Party plant,” they said. “I think most of it is coming out of the Eby camp.”
“I think the strategy is to control the race and discredit her because they don’t want to go up against her, because she has a good chance of winning.”
The first allegation investigated by the NDP stems from an online fundraising event. Global TV aired footage of the event where an Appadurai supporter offered to pay the $10 NDP membership fee for those who couldn’t afford it. According to The Breach this caused a “media firestorm” and “more than ten days later, however, analysts were still discussing how the Instagram gaffe was bad for the campaign, finding transgressions by supporters not employed by the campaign. In some cases, attacks blurred crucial distinctions between unsanctioned activities of supporters and the campaigning conducted by Appadurais’s official staff.”
Buying someone else’s membership is against NDP rules, but it is allowed under certain conditions according to BC election laws. As per the Elections Act, individuals can provide money to others to sign up for party membership, but the money must be clearly documented and count towards their own donation limits.
In an interview Appadurai explained that the supporter had not understood the rules and had made a mistake, adding that no one took up the supporter on their offer in any case. She also made it clear that her campaign did not condone buying memberships for others.
This didn’t prevent lobbyists and NDP MLAs from attacking her. Eby called the allegations “serious” and Horgan said he was “seriously concerned”. Jeff Ferrier, a former NDP communications director and now lobbyist mentioned in the quote above, claimed on a well-known podcast that “[Appadurai] said buying memberships for someone else is A-OK.” Ferrier is often presented as a “neutral” expert and his critiques of Appadurai also get a lot of play in the corporate media.
A second controversy erupted over an anonymous email to a list that included Green Party members shared on social media by Jas Johal, a Vancouver radio host and former Liberal Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA).
He, in coordination with NDP apparatchiks and the corporate media, have tried to paint this email as an official email from the Appadurai campaign, which it clearly is not. In a statement the Appadurai campaign said that “The email was not an official email from the campaign, nor was it a directive from campaign staffers. The campaign does not condone and has not encouraged any individual to break party rules by joining two parties, or to join the B.C. NDP temporarily only to vote for Anjali.”
The email, apparently written by a member of the B.C. NDP, encourages those who left the NDP in disgust to rejoin the party and vote for Appadurai as leader. It also asks that “progressive NDP members still hanging on” ensure their memberships are up-to-date in order to vote on voting day. The letter also addresses Green Party members saying “if you are a Green Party supporter, Click Here to join the BC NDP to vote for Anjali then, if she doesn’t win, go back to the Greens.”
The email does not violate any election laws or rules, and people are free to join and quit political parties as they choose after all. It is not against electoral rules to switch from one party to another, but NDP membership rules do prohibit membership in the NDP and another party at the same time. While a party having rules preventing dual membership is not unusual, this is an old rule dating back to the 1970s and was designed to root out members of the Waffle movement and adherents of the Fourth International. It was used against the left then, and it’s being used against the left now.
The third allegation involves Dogwood B.C., an environmental organization. That allegation is that “Dogwood B.C. spent the past month sending emails and texts to its membership list encouraging people to become B.C. NDP members to support Appadurai’s campaign, fundraising money to create a phone bank that signs up new members for Appadurai, organizing volunteers into call centre shifts, training people to make calls using Dogwood’s own outreach software, running online ads, and appearing to have paid staff collaborating with Appadurai’s campaign.”
According to the Vancouver Sun “Some of those activities might violate Election Act restrictions on contributions to leadership campaigns.” This allegation did in fact prompt an investigation by Elections B.C. (and is also a focus of the internal NDP investigation), a representative of which said “It remains to be seen if any specific activities being conducted by the Dogwood Initiative constitute a direct or in-kind contribution under the Election Act to leadership contestant Anjali Appadurai.”
This investigation is still ongoing even as Appadurai is being disqualified. It remains to be seen what will come of it. However, the same Vancouver Sun article said the following:
Dogwood’s communications director, Kai Nagata, said the organization did its homework.
“Before the NDP leadership race got underway, we talked to Elections B.C. about the rules around third parties and what we discovered is as long as we are communicating to our supporters, via our media list and channels, the Election Act is silent on what speech we may engage in,” said Nagata. “There are very few restrictions.”
He insisted Dogwood is not endorsing Appadurai, only encouraging members to sign up for the leadership vote.
What they do after that is up to them.
According to The Tyee “Dogwood’s campaigns manager Alexandra Woodsworth said the group’s work was similar to what unions, churches or other groups have done in the past. It’s an entirely normal part of the political process that happens in all parties at all levels, she said.”
Indeed, while prominent NDPers and apparatchiks in the bureaucracy, along with lobbyists and the corporate media, were busy blowing the allegations against Appadurai’s campaign out of proportion, nobody said anything about a letter from a Steelworkers local supporting Eby “that does everything that Dogwood has been accused of”.
Perhaps the most farcical allegation is that Appadaurai is leading a “hostile takeover” of the NDP by members of the Green Party and other climate activist groups. Any political party should be happy with thousands of new members signing up. One would think that the B.C. NDP especially, with its recent significant drop in membership, would be over the moon at tens of thousands of new members joining.
But of course the NDP establishment, leadership, and the apparatchiks in the bureaucracy, are not happy about these new members. These numbers terrify them. The momentum behind the Appadurai campaign and the thousands of members she is bringing into the party are a threat not only to Eby’s leadership campaign, but a threat to the control the establishment leadership and apparatchiks have over the party. The party apparatus has therefore done everything it can and is using every trick in the book to discredit her campaign and create a pretext for her disqualification.
Indeed, as reported in The Breach in late September: “The NDP is eager for Appadurai to submit her application so she can be dismissed on a technicality,” says one source in the party, and that the smear campaign “gives the NDP cover” for disqualification.”
For the NDP establishment and apparatchiks, with the typical conspiratorial mindset of the police, there must be something sinister behind the surging momentum of Appadurai’s campaign. They are suspicious of the spike in membership, despite the fact that such a spike should be expected in a leadership campaign. Under the bureaucratic mindset, her success couldn’t be due to her progressive and bold policies that have enthused a layer of workers and youth disaffected with the policies of the NDP government. It must be a hostile takeover by the Green Party!
Eby’s campaign, in coordination with the B.C. NDP apparatus, launched an aggressive campaign to vet new members—members who have joined to support Appadurai. The apparatus has expressed its belief that many of the new members signed up by the Appadurai campaign are “fraudulent” and represent a “hostile takeover” of the NDP by Green Party members.
The NDP establishment is so concerned about this “hostile takeover” that the provincial director of the B.C. NDP, Heather Stoutenburg, wrote to the Green Party saying that “questions have been raised about the integrity of our membership list,” adding that apparently the party’s “usual audit of our membership list before a leadership vote has revealed a significant number of current and former B.C. Greens applying for membership in the B.C. NDP.”
The only evidence provided for this comes from Stoutenburg herself claiming that “current and former Green members have told us directly that they told the B.C. Greens to temporarily suspend their memberships so they could join the B.C. NDP to vote in our leadership election and then return to your party. Others have also told us that they remain B.C. Green members and supporters despite their application for membership in the B.C. NDP.”
The other evidence of a “hostile takeover” by the Greens? The anonymous email mentioned above that was shared on social media by Jas Johal. Despite the fact that Appadurai clarified that the email was not from her campaign and that she did not condone such activity, the email became part of the “hostile takeover” narrative.
The letter by the NDP to the Greens also asked that the Green Party agree to an investigation by a neutral third party “to analyze both parties’ membership lists to look for overlaps.” The Green Party rightfully declined this request, citing the need to protect the privacy of its members. Green leader Sonia Furstenau explained that “We had no expectations or intentions of being involved in their leadership race at all,” adding that “the NDP should be celebrating new members, but they have turned that into a problem and tried to point to us.” She also explained that the Green Party has lost fewer than 90 people since the start of the NDP leadership race, hardly the numbers needed for a “hostile takeover”.
According to the Vancouver Sun “The party is also conducting both complaint-driven investigations and random spot checks into memberships, which has resulted in new members getting phone calls grilling them about their political allegiances.”
NDP apparatchiks have been scouring social media to snoop on new members for evidence of previous or current support for the Greens. NDP Apparatchiks and even MLAs supporting Eby have been calling and emailing new members demanding that they prove they are no longer members of the Green Party.
New members are asked to provide this evidence within three days. Rik Logtenberg, a city councillor in Nelson, was previously a member of the Green Party but had let his membership lapse. He had also recently joined the NDP. He shared on social media an email from the NDP demanding that he confirm in writing within three days not only that he was no longer a member of the Green Party, but also the date his membership had ended. He has rightly described these tactics by the NDP apparatus as voter suppression. There are many others on social media claiming to have received similar calls.
According to The Tyee:
Campaign teams had until Oct. 4 to challenge any memberships they believed were suspect and thought the party should investigate. There were around 1,000 such challenges, all of which would have come from the Eby campaign.
It is up to the NDP’s chief electoral officer Elizabeth Cull to adjudicate those challenges and according to the party’s constitution those decisions are final.
Appadurai, whose application came in later than Eby’s, has not yet been approved as a candidate and therefore didn’t have the opportunity to see the membership list yet and missed the deadline for challenges.
These challenges were designed to bury Appadurai’s campaign in bureaucratic red tape, remove as many of her supporters as possible from the party, and to cast doubts on her legitimacy as a candidate. This went hand-in-hand with the smear campaign to discredit her. The allegations in and of themselves were based on flimsy evidence, but the sheer volume of complaints and challenges were all the pretext the party needed to delay the approval of her campaign and the justification they needed to eventually disqualify her.
The leaked report by the NDP chief elections officer “determined that Ms. Appadurai engaged in serious improper conduct by co-ordinating with third parties, including Dogwood, that conducted membership drives on her behalf. … The harm from this misconduct cannot be remedied with any consequence short of disqualification of the Appadurai campaign.”
The report also “found that Dogwood used paid resources to sign up members for Appadurai ‘at her request’ and accepted contributions from third parties to fund its advertising campaign in support of Appadurai… These expenses have not been counted toward Ms. Appadurai’s spending limit and involve contributions from ineligible contributors. These are serious violations of the rules the B.C. NDP put in place to ensure this leadership contest was conducted fairly and on a level playing field.”
The report “concluded that Dogwood solicited fraudulent memberships and the group’s campaigns manager, Alexandra Woodsworth, ‘publicly and repeatedly encouraged members of other parties to join the B.C. NDP while she volunteered with the Appadurai campaign.’”
It should be remembered that the NDP’s process for approving or disqualifying leadership candidates takes place behind closed doors. Decisions are final and little justification is required. Indeed, no actual evidence of any violations on Appadurai’s has been presented publicly.
Breath of fresh air
It’s not that difficult to see why Appadurai’s campaign picked up steam and managed to out-recruit Eby. Her critiques of the NDP government and her proposed reforms enthused a layer angry and frustrated with the status quo— a status quo defended by the current NDP leadership. She managed to convince disillusioned NDPers and former members of the party who left in disgust.
The article in the Tyee explained where this enthusiasm behind Appadurai’s campaign was coming from:
The controversy over memberships in the British Columbia NDP is just the latest skirmish in a struggle that goes back decades, says Harold Steves, a former MLA and an honorary lifetime member of the party.
The party says it is working to protect the integrity of its membership list ahead of the leadership vote, but others like Steves see it as an attempt to head off a debate that many members, both new and old, want to have.
“I think [what’s happening] is an attempt to take back our party from the group that’s been running it for the last few decades,” said Steves, an MLA in Dave Barrett’s government in the 1970s who at 85 years old is finishing a final term on Richmond city council.
“There are a lot of people out there who used to belong to the party or support the party,” he said. “All my friends who quit the NDP have signed back up again. I helped encourage some of them to do so… I probably helped sign up a thousand ex-members myself.”
Steves is supporting the campaign of Anjali Appadurai, a climate activist and 2021 federal NDP candidate who is running for the provincial party’s leadership on a “vision to enact balanced policy rooted in grassroots democratic dialogue, in order to boldly address the intersecting crises affecting all of us, while leaving no one behind.”
“She’s sort of like a breath of fresh air,” Steves said. “Everything that we believed in and the vision we had, she espouses it. It’s amazing someone has come along and is prepared to go and stand up and be counted and bring us back to the vision we once had.”
Rather than a “hostile takeover” of the party by the Greens, what is far more likely to have happened is that some Green Party members and climate activists were impressed with her campaign and her policies, and decided that joining the NDP and supporting her were the best ways to ensure that policies they supported were implemented. There is nothing unusual about this. Her push back against the NDP corporate agenda, the oil and gas corporations, and her bold climate policies would be a lightning rod for thousands of climate activists angry at the NDP for its betrayals. Rather than welcome them with open arms, the NDP apparatus treated them with distrust and suspicion and used their joining the NDP as an excuse to disqualify Appadurai.
Appadurai has said that “the party should be embracing the fact that her climate-focused campaign has attracted former Green voters,” adding that “certainly, we have signed up a lot of members who came from other parties. To me, this is a wonderfully positive thing. Isn’t that the point of a political party, that we attract members away from other parties?”
As reported in Jacobin, “she noted that it is the strength of her climate activism that has been the main driver in drawing back those who abandoned the BC NDP for the Greens in recent years, rather than any anonymous email or illicit ‘takeover’ plot. ‘We have called them back into this party, which is the only real option for a true social safety net and for a true economic restructuring.’”
The fact that the NDP establishment was going to disqualify Appadurai has been obvious for several weeks. An article in Business in Vancouver from Oct. 5 explained the writing on the wall. The article is relatively short and worth quoting in full:
The hot gossip out of Victoria says Premier John Horgan’s team has been busy scheduling exit interviews with media for the week of Oct. 18.
That’s a full month and half before the NDP leadership vote scheduled for Dec. 2, and five weeks before the current legislative session ends.
Meanwhile, the NDP head office is sending emails to various Appadurai supporters who signed up for party membership, asking them to prove within 72 hours that they are not also members of the BC Green Party. “How do you say voter suppression without saying voter suppression?” tweeted Rik Logtenberg, one of the Appadurai members who received the email.
Appadurai’s nomination application still hasn’t been accepted by the NDP brass. It has become clear it never will be. She’s about to be bounced out of the race, and I believe David Eby will be acclaimed the 37th premier of British Columbia on Oct. 19 – the NDP’s deadline for candidate approval.
It’s a disgusting abuse of democracy, tossing Appadurai – and her rumoured 10,000 new NDP members – without allowing a proper vote. But it’s not out of character for the so-called BC New Democratic Party.
This is the same NDP government who “won” the Canadian Association of Journalists’ Code of Silence award in the Outstanding Achievement in Government Secrecy category, after gutting Freedom of Information laws, and adding a fee for reporters, watchdogs and taxpayers to access information.
This is the same NDP government who routinely releases controversial reports at inconvenient moments. Most recently, it was the scathing repeat offenders report, which was quietly released on a Saturday morning.
And this is the same NDP government who tried to slap a non-disclosure agreement on Fraser-Nicola MLA Jackie Tegart when she asked about the province’s plans to rebuild the devastated community of Lytton in her riding.
You get the picture. The NDP don’t like transparent, accountable government. Now they’re set to dump Appadurai from a race that they want to be an Eby coronation. Don’t forget Eby’s exasperation when Appadurai declared – it reeked of his sense of privilege.
This could be the straw that forever breaks the back of the NDP coalition between environmental activists and union members.
Consider this scenario: Appadurai and her thousands of new NDP members are turfed from the party’s race. BC Green Leader Sonia Furstenau calls Appadurai, inviting her to be the Greens’ deputy leader and offering her any Vancouver-area nomination she would like to run in. The Appadurai army stays organized, grows and brings thousands of formerly NDP votes into the BC Green coalition.
It could happen – and all because the BC NDP brass and caucus don’t trust their own party members to thoughtfully consider the leadership candidates and vote for the vision they think B.C. should pursue. It’s the antithesis of grassroots politics, and the NDP may rue the day they paved the path for Eby’s acclamation.
There is no way to tell the future or what is going to happen now that Appadurai’s campaign has been turfed by the NDP brass and apparatchiks. It remains to be seen whether the perspectives sketched out above will come to pass.
One thing is certain though: the move to disqualify Appadurai will hurt the NDP, and opens the door for the return of the B.C. Liberals. The Vancouver Sun quoted a political scientist at University of the Fraser Valley:
Hamish Telford, a political scientist with the University of the Fraser Valley, said Tuesday morning the NDP could face political consequences if they disqualify the 32-year-old climate activist.
“It hurts the NDP brand, particularly with a younger demographic, which is where they like to think that they have an advantage over the B.C. Liberals,” he said. “Those younger voters would similarly be distressed to see a young woman of colour disbarred in favour of a middle-aged white man, the establishment candidate. I think the optics of that would be terrible.”
Such a decision would also tarnish Eby’s win, Telford said, which was supposed to mark a generational shift from Horgan to a younger crop of NDP leaders.
“There would always be that asterisk beside his name about how he won this particular contest,” Telford said. “If he wins this by acclamation because they kick out the only other challenger, the NDP really transforms themselves into the party of the establishment.”
The same article quoted Kristine Wickner, a longtime NDP member and former president of the Shuswap NDP riding association, who said that attempts to delegitimize Appadurai’s campaign “only serves to delegitimize the B.C. NDP as a party that seemingly can’t run a leadership race without resorting to undemocratic political tactics.”
This is undoubtedly true. The sad fact now is that Danielle Smith, the newly elected leader of the United Conservative Party (UCP) and now premier of Alberta, has more democratic standing and legitimacy than Eby will. Smith at least won an election by the members of her own party. Eby will be acclaimed premier, as decided behind closed doors by the party brass and apparatchiks.
The NDP has hemorrhaged members and is rapidly losing support among its traditional base—workers and youth. The party’s social base of support is all but disappearing—and only rests now with the trade union bureaucracies. This support has also been seriously weakened over the years, and is being weakened by the current round of negotiations with public sector unions.
Rather than embrace new members and their enthusiasm, the NDP leadership and bureaucracy have treated them with distrust and suspicion and ultimately rejected them. The B.C. NDP is shooting itself in the foot—and there will be consequences. Many Appadurai supporters, including former members of the NDP, will turn their backs on the party for good. Many current NDP members will also leave in disgust, rightly seeing the disqualification of Appadurai as another slap in the face to be added to the long list of the party’s capitulations and betrayals. Those involved in climate activism, who were reinvigorated by Appadurai’s program and convinced to join the party, will also reject the NDP for good.
In turfing his only rival by underhanded means, David Eby will be an illegitimate premier that needs to be fought every step of the way. If there are no democratic structures to continue this fight then the fight must be conducted on the streets and in the workplaces. The agenda of the Eby government will be the agenda of the capitalists, especially the oil and gas corporations. Eby will preside over a deteriorating economic situation, the growing climate crisis, and will continue the NDP’s inaction on poverty, housing, the cost-of-living crisis, and the opioid crisis. Attacks on working and living conditions will continue.
But all is not lost. Appadurai’s campaign has shown that it is possible to organize on the basis of progressive reforms and bold policies. This is precisely what the left has been lacking across the country for years. The momentum around Appadurai’s campaign gave her a real shot at beating the establishment NDP’s agenda. Her campaign has enthused and excited thousands of people—people willing to fight for a better future. There is currently no political outlet for this willingness to fight, but it must find an expression at a certain point. Don’t mourn, organize!