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Baldrey: Why Premier David Eby — one year later — says there's more work ahead

At the first B.C. NDP convention in four years, Eby's messaging on the future was made "abundantly clear," according to Keith Baldrey.
B.C. Premier David Eby addresses the B.C. NDP convention at Victoria Conference Centre on Saturday, Nov. 18, 2023. | Adrian Lam, Glacier Media

Premier David Eby celebrated the one-year anniversary of being sworn in as premier by addressing more than 700 party faithful at the NDP convention this weekend as the party gathered in-person for the first time in four years.

Eby’s performance mirrored the mood of the convention: energetic and confident.

I suppose that shouldn’t come as a surprise when a party and its leader are flying so high in the polls and face a fractured, listless political opposition.

His wife, Cailey Lynch, upstaged him in her introduction of him by revealing she is pregnant with their third child (due in June) but Eby took to the stage and talked about his childhood, what motivates him politically and reeled off a list of measures accomplished on his watch.

Chief among them is the housing legislative package introduced this fall, which would limit short-term rentals, force municipalities to build more housing with higher densification and create housing near transit stations.

Much of his speech was devoted to the housing issue and he used it to repeatedly paint B.C. United Party leader Kevin Falcon as a former developer not interested in societal good but only in letting market forces rule everything and ensuring the wealthiest are protected.

Eby appeared to be trying out some messaging that will no doubt form the NDP’s chief line of attack against B.C. United and its leader as the next election nears (for some reason, Falcon continues to stress his background as a land developer, which seems to play into the NDP’s hands).

He also boasted that when it comes to fundraising, the NDP is beating its opponents by a two to one margin, which is massive.

That is a reminder that the NDP government’s move soon after assuming power to ban corporate and union financial donations to political parties took away one of its opponents’ chief advantages and gave the NDP a decided edge (the party is historically much more reliant on individual donations).

The other parties are clearly having fundraising problems, which could become very problematic when an expensive election campaign draws ever nearer.

In the 2017 election campaign, the NDP ran a torrent of attack advertising against then-B.C. Liberal leader Christy Clark, portraying her as being tied to corporate donations to her party. They were harsh ads, but they were undoubtedly effective.

Eby’s speech signals that similar ads will be unleashed against Falcon, ones that will tie him to the richest folks and corporate interests.

He received more than a dozen standing ovations during his speech, and delegates rewarded him with a leadership approval vote of 93.1 per cent.

One year into the job Eby has made it clear the John Horgan era is over and the government is very much run by him. He has centralized more power in the premier’s office and has introduced landmark legislation that reaches over the heads of municipalities.

Eby made it clear he still thinks there is plenty more work ahead and more issues in the months ahead before the scheduled October election.

But with less than 11 months to go (or even less) before that vote, this past weekend’s gathering made it abundantly clear the opposing parties face a near-Herculean task of taking this government, and this premier, down to defeat.

Keith Baldrey is chief political reporter for Global BC.