You’d think the NDP leadership race was already over, writes Rob Shaw.
On paper at least, Premier John Horgan is still in charge of the provincial government. He’s got the fancy corner office at the legislature, the RCMP protective detail and the title as the head of cabinet. But with the official launch of David Eby’s seemingly-unstoppable campaign to replace him this week, Horgan’s power and influence is fading fast.
Nowhere is that more evident than in the day-to-day cut and thrust of B.C. political discourse, waged in traditional and social media.
Horgan’s name pretty much vanished this week.
The NDP government’s opponents, including the Opposition BC Liberals and Greens, pivoted on the fly to refocus all their energies on Eby.
“Failed Housing Minister and author of ‘How to Sue the Police’ wants to be premier,” was the headline of the BC Liberal news release that went out just before Eby’s official launch July 19.
“It’s clear the NDP’s soft-on-crime Attorney General and low-on-results Housing Minister David Eby cannot be trusted,” read the release.
The BC Liberals accused Eby of failing to improve housing affordability, failing to meet government’s building targets for new housing units, and authoring a pamphlet designed for activists on how to sue the police when he worked at the Pivot Legal Society.
When news broke later in the week that Vancouver had become the most expensive rental market in the country, with average rental rate increases of 25 per cent to $2,412 monthly, the BC Liberals didn’t even bother mentioning Horgan’s name.
“It’s no wonder that as inflation worsens and prices soar, people feel increasingly abandoned by Eby and this NDP government,” read the party release.
The BC Greens adjusted to Eby’s arrival on the leadership scene by taking aim at the NDP’s environmental record.
“David Eby represents the status quo of the current B.C. NDP government that has failed to deliver on their promises of affordability and climate action,” Green MLA Adam Olsen said in a release. He didn’t mention Horgan once.
“In the spring of 2019, Eby voted 14 times in favour of the B.C. NDP’s revised LNG tax scheme, which gave billions of dollars in subsidies to LNG Canada,” added Olsen.
“His government has yet to reduce ballooning greenhouse gas emissions in BC, while it does nothing to curtail the billions of dollars of profits that oil and gas companies have made on the backs of struggling British Columbians.”
“His” government? You’d think the NDP leadership race was already over.
The new reality
Expect this to be the new reality in B.C. politics — nevermind the fact Horgan intends to lead the government into a fall session of the legislature. You can almost imagine the debate already: “Will the premier — no, not that one, the one with the real power, please stand up and answer the question?”
Unfortunately, it was always going to end this way for Horgan, the moment he abruptly announced his resignation on June 28.
It’s nonetheless jarring to see him sidelined from the political discourse so quickly after being such a larger-than-life, powerful and popular character the last five years.
Politics, however, is ruthless. And it’s no surprise the NDP’s opponents have abruptly switched targets from the sunset premier to the presumptive new leader of the province.