Premier David Eby’s affinity for yoga came in handy this week, as he tried to twist himself into a new “tough on crime” persona. But given his history, convincing anyone would be beyond even a master contortionist.
As the proud author of such tomes as The Arrest Handbook: A Guide to Your Rights; How to Sue the Police and Private Security in Small Claims Court; and Toward More Effective Police Oversight, it would be a complete transformation to be suddenly more invested in the rights of those hurt by crime, rather than the suspects and criminals.
And, not surprisingly given that background, on his watch as B.C.’s Attorney General for five full years, there has been a marked uptick in social disorder, homelessness, addiction, overdoses, and random violent crime.
This isn’t partisan spin. Look at this letter from B.C. urban mayors, who spanned the political spectrum. They told Eby that since 2017, the time it takes a B.C. prosecutor to conclude a file jumped 118%, 26% more stay of proceedings were being offered, and guilty verdicts were down 20%. “These outcomes are indicative of a system under strain and are discouraging for police and community alike.”
The mayors also told Eby that across B.C., 204 chronic offenders were responsible for an eye-watering 11,648 negative police contacts.
On Monday, it was clear in his first Question Period as Premier that he still doesn’t understand how widespread the concerns over public safety have become. His performance was far more bored bureaucrat than John Horgan – detached of any of the empathy that Horgan used so effectively to connect with everyday British Columbians.
(Eby also missed the chance for a Horgan-esque quip, when opposition leader Kevin Falcon noted his sudden pivot on crime was akin to an “arsonist [who] wants us to believe that he should be trusted to put out the fire he started and stoked.” Horgan probably would have retorted he was “burning” to answer the question, was on the “hot seat,” or some other such dad joke. Eby simply isn’t wired that way.)
Eby gave a hand wave that people “feel unease” that “their downtowns aren’t the same as before.”
Sorry, Premier, but these concerns stretch far beyond unease, and far beyond the downtown cores. It’s in suburbia and rural communities too.
After presiding over the catch and release justice system for 60 months, Eby claimed he got religion on the weekend, and touted a big new tough-on-crime announcement on day 3 as premier. The problem is that it wasn’t much, and even that was too late for thousands of victims of crime.
He took credit for a directive to bring in a “clear and understandable approach to bail for repeat violent offenders” from new Attorney General Murray Rankin, which Les Leyne reports was issued while Horgan was Premier. Much of the rest of the plan had also been in the works for months, added Vaughn Palmer. Not only had Eby and the NDP not bothered to implement it, they had maintained it was impossible.
That is, until now, as the new Premier tries to bend public perception about him.
In the Legislature Monday, Eby leaned on a supportive statement from new Vancouver Mayor Ken Sim. Of course, that quote was given while Sim was mistakenly under the impression that Eby’s Sunday announcement was going to fund a big chunk of Sim’s public safety plan, according to CTV News.
Eby’s office was lightning quick to correct that Sim error. If only the Premier would act as fast on actually fighting crime. Alas, as flexible as he is, he just doesn’t bend that way.
Jordan Bateman has a long history of public policy work. He is currently vice-president, communications and marketing, for the Independent Contractors and Business Association.