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Keith Baldrey: Eby follows through on promise to ‘hit the ground running’

New B.C. premier unveils array of actions on crime, inflation and housing shortly after being sworn in.
New B.C. Premier David Eby. Photograph B.C. government/Flickr

He has only been in the job for a few days, but already newly minted Premier David Eby has been a busy man.

Just minutes after his swearing-in ceremony last Friday he announced a couple of financial goodies for most people: a $100 credit from BC Hydro and a new “cost of living” credit that amounts to about $400 for a couple with two children.

On the weekend, he laid out a multi-pronged “safer communities action plan” that received generally positive reviews. The plan will establish repeat offender co-ordinated response teams and more mental health crisis teams, and toughen the Crown’s policy when it comes to bail for repeat violent offenders.

He followed that up with two new pieces of legislation that tackle the housing crisis, both on the rental side and the supply side.

He will soon turn his attention to ensuring foreign-trained workers in health care and the construction sectors can actually work in the professions in which they have been trained. There will soon be some climate action policies unveiled as well.

And more to come. This rolling series of policies is all part of his “100 day action plan” he announced a few weeks back.

Of course, some of these policies have attracted criticism from political opponents.

Taking money from a Crown corporation like BC Hydro to either bolster the government’s bottom line or fund a rebate or credit scheme is exactly the type of thing the BC NDP was so critical of while in Opposition.

And the BC Liberals have correctly pointed out that many elements of his safer community plan would have been implemented months (if not years) ago. In fact, the Opposition has been demanding that Crown counsels be directed to take a tougher stand at bail hearings for weeks now.

Eby and his government will clearly take that criticism in exchange for being seen as actually taking aggressive action on a number of fronts.

Many have long wondered if Eby as premier would be the same Eby who first burst on the public scene as an activist lawyer who championed the homeless and civil liberties.

So far, at least, we are seeing a different David Eby in action than we saw when he was with the Pivot Legal Society or the B.C. Civil Liberties Association.

He wants to get rid of the street encampment on the Downtown Eastside and has opened the door to reopening mental health institutions like Riverview Hospital. In so doing, he has drawn strong criticism from his former associates (again, criticism he won’t mind taking).

Eby will be the energetic face of his government for a few weeks if not months. Then, I suspect,  he will slip more into the background like his predecessor John Horgan and let his front-line ministers carry the ball.

By then he will have established there is indeed a new and different leader in B.C. It will take time for some of these policies to be implemented (for example, getting rid of that monstrous encampment on Hastings Street in the DTES seems an incredibly complicated thing to do) but as long as progress is being seen as occurring this may placate the voting public.

Eby said he would “hit the ground running” once he got the top political job in B.C. So far, he’s followed through on that promise.

Keith Baldrey is chief political reporter for Global BC.  

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