David Eby, the soon-to-be-crowned NDP leader, seems like a decent guy. Before getting into provincial politics in 2013, the lawyer worked for the Pivot Legal Society and was executive director of the BC Civil Liberties Association.
Then he showed his political chops when he ousted then-premier Christy Clark from the Vancouver-Point Grey riding.
That’s why, given his credentials, he should be extremely uncomfortable with how the NDP leadership race unfolded this fall. In fact, it was the definition of undemocratic.
On October 19th, the NDP executive voted to disqualify Eby’s only competitor, Anjali Appadurai, from the race. The vote supported a recommendation from the party’s chief electoral officer Elizabeth Cull.
According to a leaked report, Cull investigated Appadurai’s campaign and found that she and her team broke rules by working with third parties to encourage people to sign up for party membership.
“The improper co-ordination … played such a significant role in the Appadurai campaign that it is impossible to create a level playing field at this point, and thus impossible to restore the leadership election campaign to a state of integrity …” the report read.
The investigation was prompted by complaints about the Appadurai campaign’s relationship with Dogwood BC, a non-profit public interest group. The report said Dogwood used emails, paid advertisements, and phone banks to recruit supporters to the NDP to vote for Appadurai.
But here’s the thing. Allegations are one thing, but proof is another altogether. Appadurai denied that her campaign asked Dogwood for help. She was also never given the chance to defend her campaign before the NDP executive deep-sixed her campaign.
So much for due process.
Even David Eby, who is considered a progressive on many issues, got his knickers in a knot when Appadurai first announced her leadership bid in early August.
In numerous interviews, he admitted being “frustrated,” as if competition in a leadership race is a bad thing. It seems he was looking forward to stepping uncontested into the NDP leader’s throne.
And let’s not forget who was pulling the strings behind this decision—long time NDP insider Elizabeth Cull.
In 2000, when she was finance minster, Cull and then Premier Glen Clark were accused of lying to the public during the 1996 election campaign. Known as the “fudge it budget” scandal, the NDP government plundered $400 million from Forest Renewal BC in an effort to make up for budget shortfalls.
Cull can’t be trusted. The canning of the Appadurai campaign has the stench of the old guard circling the wagons to banish a youthful leadership hopeful from the race.
Appadurai is a climate change activist. If she had become NDP leader and followed through on promises to stop all old growth logging and reopen the book on megaprojects like Coastal Gaslink, it could have torpedoed the party’s chances in the next election.
Dogwood BC’s efforts to support Appadurai may have been heavy handed and sloppy. The optics were definitely bad.
But did Appadurai do anything illegal or unethical?
Has Cull presented hard evidence to support the decision to disqualify Appadurai? Not that we’ve seen.
From the outside, it looks like NDP insiders were subverting the democratic process to suit their agenda.
And that’s another big hit to the NDP’s integrity—and to democracy.