Attorney General David Eby is (unofficially) BC's next premier

Jul 6 2022, 6:02 pm

Attorney General David Eby is British Columbia’s 37th premier.

True, it’s not technically official yet.

But you can basically take it to the bank after a bombshell announcement by rival candidate and Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon on Wednesday morning that he was bowing out of the race and throwing his support behind Eby.

The move effectively combines the race’s two strongest candidates into one unbeatable team — Eby’s public profile and activist credentials, with Kahlon’s party organizational heft and appeal to traditional New Democrat supporters.

Kahlon said he was strongly considering running, but decided not to because it was the best move for his wife and son.

“The decision right now is it’s not the right time for my family,” Kahlon told me, just before he went public with the news Wednesday morning.

“Being a dad is something I cherish, and I know is an important job — it’s the most important job I have.”

Premier John Horgan announced last month he was resigning due to health reasons as soon as the party chose a successor. That kickstarted a flurry of behind-the-scenes activity by those interested in replacing him.

Kahlon said he called Eby on Tuesday night to tell him of his decision, and offer his support.

“I’m going to be supportive of him and encourage him to run,” said Kahlon. “My supporters and team are entirely behind him.”

Eby, said Kahlon, has “all the right attributes” to be premier.

Officially, Eby still hasn’t even announced. And officially, the BC NDP hasn’t set the rules of the race, the entry cost or even the date of the leadership vote.

But this leadership contest is effectively over before it even began.

Most of the BC NDP caucus was waiting to see what would happen between Eby and Ravi before deciding where they fit into the picture.

The thinking was that if the two engaged in an epic clash as front-bench ministers fighting to carry Horgan’s legacy, it might open the door to at least a couple other MLAs or ministers running with more focused campaigns on specific issues, like the environment.

That may still happen. But it’s impossible to imagine a sitting cabinet minister or MLA launching their campaign now without first approaching Eby and asking if it will damage their relationship once he’s premier.

Most of the caucus will line up behind him in support when he launches. It’s a bit reminiscent of the way Horgan won the party leadership in 2014, emerging from a flurry of behind-the-scenes discussions to have the support of almost everyone involved. 

It’s probably the best possible outcome for the BC NDP, to have a relatively united caucus behind one candidate, and to minimize what could have been months of public disagreements and debates that would highlight exactly where the cracks are in the New Democrat coalition.

Still, it’s an anti-climatic end to a race that never even started.

Eby was always going to be the giant in the contest — both because of his immense public profile as one of Horgan’s top ministers, but also because, well, he’s 6’7.

The 44-year-old carries huge name recognition as the attorney general who tackled the financial implosion at ICBC, brought in no-fault auto insurance, spent hundreds of millions to purchase hotels to clear homeless encampments in parks, launched a public inquiry into money laundering and is pressuring municipalities to help solve the housing crisis.

Inside the NDP government, he’s the guy you give the most difficult files to solve.

Personally, if you’re looking for what makes him tick, I wrote this profile of him a few years ago that still stands. 

Less a New Democrat loyalist, and more a community activist who found his way to the NDP later in life, Eby represents the young, new-age, Metro Vancouver urban progressive side of the party, which is not tied directly to the NDP’s organized labour roots. 

His critics say he’s still an activist at heart who’d veer the government far left if he was in power, and lose its centrist position.

It’s certainly where the BC Liberals will focus their attacks in the next election.

But by then, it will be Premier David Eby, versus BC Liberal leader Kevin Falcon on the ballot. 

Rob is Daily Hive’s Political Columnist, tackling the biggest political stories in BC. You can catch him on CHEK News as their on-air Political Correspondent.

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