Politics harder than it looks — Updated

The Narwhal published an Arno Kopecky feature on Anjali Appadurai. How a 32-year-old climate activist is shaking up the race to be B.C.’s next premier provides interesting background for a woman of achievement who will likely remain in the public eye beyond 2022.

No matter how admirable Anjali Appadurai and her causes are, Kopecky concludes the leadership effort “probably won’t end in victory.”

However, The Narwhal article suggests a chance of success:

That’s because party leadership races aren’t particularly democratic. Anjali Appadurai doesn’t need to charm a plurality of British Columbians to become premier. She doesn’t even need to persuade a majority of the NDP’s current membership. All she needs to do is sign up a few thousand new members, who can then vote for her.

The party currently has 11,000 members, having lost 9,000 since Horgan took office. If Appadurai brought those disaffected members back, that would almost certainly be enough.

The statement that almost half of BC NDP members left the party comes from Dogwood, an organization that is an active participant in the Appadurai campaign. I can locate no independent source for this information and after reviewing the party’s annual reports, it seems unlikely.

In calendar year 2016, individual contributions to the provincial NDP totalled $3.8 million. In 2021, contributions from 14,195 supporters amounted to $3.6 million. With contributions down only 6%, the notion that membership declined by 45% is hard to accept.

The Narwhal reports that political scientist Hamish Telford said David Eby “is fighting for power. She’s fighting for the soul of the party.”  Telford is also quoted:

If she ends up with a vote in the single digits, percentage-wise, then not much will change. But if she starts to take down 25 to 30 per cent of the vote, then I think the NDP might start to think, ‘hmm, a significant portion of our base is not happy with the direction that we’ve been going, and maybe we have to do more for them.’

That is probably a naive assumption. Instead of allowing climate activists to be influential, NDP leaders are more likely to drive them out of the party. Holding power is the single most important issue for politicians.

The would-be leader says putting people and the planet first is meant to be “at the heart of the NDP as a worker-first party.

Sorry, that was then; this is now. Horgan’s NDP is not Barrett’s NDP. Nor is it Mike Harcourt’s.

There remains a chance Appadurai will not be on a leadership ballot but that important issue was not even discussed in The Narwhal article. People joining the party are required to make a declaration of support for policies and principles of John Horgan’s NDP. The climate activist and her followers seem to oppose current policies and principles,

Two years ago, Mario Canseco’s Research Co. reported 62% of Canadians believe global warming is a “major crisis.” Disasters such as the ones seen in the summer of 2022 likely push that percentage higher. BC NDP leaders know the environment and climate change are major issues but they also believe minor policy changes and promises of future actions are sufficient. Their primary response is that taken by spin doctors writing speeches, talking points and press releases. Nothing much changes on the ground.

Reality is that protecting the world we live in would result in a substantial economic price that would be payable immediately. BC Government leaders deduce that price would also include loss of political power since modifying resource extraction would lead to job losses and an economic downturn.

Another issue not discussed in The Narwhal piece is this: can an unelected party leader survive as Premier if almost every sitting MLA prefers another person?

By convention, the leader of the party holding a majority of seats in the Legislature, elected or not, is invited by the Lieutenant-Governor to form a Government. But if that person cannot demonstrate the confidence of house members, the L-G would almost certainly offer the Premiership to an MLA supported by the largest number of MLAs.

Who would that likely be? MLA David Eby, of course.

Since I wrote Quixotic quest bound to fail a few weeks ago, I have heard from individuals who believe that climate is our principal issue and Appadurai offers the best chance to quickly end the BC government’s love affair with fossil fuels and ancient forest destruction. These people aim for Appadurai’s success but hope at least to force an honest policy discussion within the NDP.

I believe there is another way to force the NDP to alter policies. That is to strengthen Green Party representation in the Legislature. The 2020 BC Liberal campaign under Andrew Wilkinson was inept, but that is unlikely to be repeated in 2024. A minority government dependent on six or eight Green MLAs would have to modify current laissez-faire extractivist policies.

However, getting that number of Greens elected requires financial and human resources to organize key ridings now. Instead, environmentalists who spend time trying to remake the NDP are lost to BC Greens for the time being. Newly involved activists may come to distrust partisan politics to a degree that will keep them from further involvement with any party.

NDP strategists have contemplated how the Green Party can be suppressed during a time of climate crisis. Some believe the current distraction may help achieve just that.

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Categories: NDP BC

14 replies »

  1. I agree, to get the NDP “Green”, one must vote for the Green party.

    The big, big problem for the NDP is the old “Boss Hog” attitude, which panders to every faction, yet, in the end is power unto itself.

    The NDP is not “new” (just the same old corrupt party politics), nor is it democratic (most power is held by labour), thus in the end the NDP ill sacrifice all for unionized workers.

    I give this example over and over again, but I am laughed at by the minions on Dead Dog 98/Global/CTV/CBC and Post media, but sadly the numbers are adding up.

    We will spend over $3 billion on a 5.8 km subway, which ultimately will have a maximum capacity of one half what is considered needed for building a subway!

    We will spend $.6 billion to over $5 billion, for a 16 km extension of the Expo Line to Langley, which, according to TransLink’s own numbers, carry less customers than when the Broadway 99 B-Line carried in 2019!

    We will spend $3 billion to rehab the Expo Line, which needs a new upgraded electrical supply and signalling system (the NDP just paid a $1.47 billion contract to up grade the signalling system on the Millennium Line so it can offer half the capacity needed, deemed necessary before building a subway.

    Add it all up and it is breathtaking, we will spend at least (counting on inflation) $11 billion on just the Expo and millennium Lines, not including a $727 for new cars or $1.47 billion re-signalling the Millennium Line.

    For $11 billion we could build (latest numbers taking into account inflation):

    1) The 130 km RftV/Leewood Stuidy reintroducing a passenger service from Vancouver to Chilliwack – $1.5 billion.

    2) A completely rehabbed E&N, offering a maximum three trains per hour per direction between Victoria and Courtney/Port Alberni. $2.5 to $3 billion

    3) A new regional rail line connecting Salmon Arm to Kelowna – $2 billion

    4) A BCIT to UBC Stanley Park European style tramway (max, capacity 20,000 pphpd+) – $2 billion

    This would leave at least $2 billion for healthcare improvements in the smaller interior communities in BC!

    Which would attract more people from cars, 21.8 km of SkyTrain or about 600 km in regional rail/tramway?

    Which would be more Green?

    This is what Ms. Anjali Appadurai, should be proposing, this is what the BC and Federal Greens should be proposing.



  2. The NDP knows that there are more jobs for their supporters in conservation efficiency and renewables than in building disastrous megaprojects like Site C. It can’t be about jobs then, and it certainly isn’t about environment first policies, so it must be about the money.

    Billions upon tens of billions being spent for an unnecessary and destructive dam may be good for Union bosses and the companies that are working on the project.

    The bigger the numbers the easier it is to skim more off the top. Corruption in business, in government, and in BC Hydro should be the focus of opponents of the government policies of the NDP and the Liberals.


    • There would be many jobs created by committing to conservation by improving efficiency of electricity consumption. But those would be distributed throughout the province, involving mostly small non-union employers of tradespeople. Also, there would be no multi-million dollar contracts to government’s favourite engineers and consultants. To large unions like MoveUp, IBEW, CUPE, and USW, jobs improving efficiency aren’t directly beneficial.

      Union bosses gave $6.3 million to NDP in 2016 and 2017, a number that kept NDP solvent and able to fight the 2017 election. It’s reasonable to assume that millions of dollars provided by unions had implicit strings attached.

      The very risky Site C project was inexplicable if attention was only paid to demand growth and cost of alternatives. But it can be explained as a return on the investments made by large unions and other NDP supporters.


  3. “in calendar year 2016, individual contributions to the provincial NDP totalled $3.8 million. In 2021, contributions from 14,195 supporters amounted to $3.6 million. With contributions down only 6%, the notion that membership declined by 45% is hard to accept.”

    It may or may not be significant, but this is the first serious mistake that I have seen in a Norm Farrell post.

    Building a case based on one’s inability to find something plausible is NOT solid use of reason; particularly in this case where the (admittedly unlikely) case of the statement of reduced numbers coupled with the consequent increase in per capita donations to retain parity, would be ENORMOUSLY significant.

    I just have to point that out…


    • Darryl, I would be happy to change my conclusion if you can provide reliable evidence that party membership declined by 45%.

      The contribution numbers I state are taken from reports BC NDP filed with Elections BC. The Summary of Political Contributions for 2021 shows that 14,195 individual were funding the NDP. The 2016 report names donors who gave more than $250 but does not show the total number of individual contributors.

      2018 EBC report also shows a 6% difference in numbers of contributors when compared to 2021. Both of those were the year after an election. Remember that election years typically show a substantial rise in the number of donors when compared to other years. Just as 2018 showed a large decline from 2017, it was expected for the number of contributors to be down in 2021 when compared to 2020.

      Frankly, I’d be happy if the membership numbers were down substantially because of policy disagreements, but evidence of this is not available to the general public.


      • To further add to the debate, my contacts in the NDP have indicated to me that memberships are not being renewed and is causing great concern for party officials.

        The NDP continue on a course which is contrary to a certain percentage of their membership and the Greens will benefit greatly.

        The problem with the NDP is that they do the same thing over and over again, ever hoping for different results.


      • My point is not to prove the number cited by the Narwhal, but rather that lacking that number it is hazardous to draw conclusions about the number by inference based on total spending.

        John Kenneth Galbraith pointed out a phenomena a few times in his writings; one whereby the people most likely to vote in any given election are the ones benefitting most from the status quo; whereas those who are doing most poorly tend to get despirited and refrain from participation.

        This could easily hold true here, with the financing.


        • The difference here is that The Narwhal repeated an unsourced statement from Dogwood, partisans in the Appadurai campaign. I examined reports to Elections BC and discussed my conclusion with knowledgeable pundits. They agree that a substantial membership drop in the year following an election is standard, regardless of whether or not policies are in dispute.

          The claim that NDP had lost almost half its members should have been given at least a cursory factcheck by The Narwhal. Also, they could have assigned a writer not involved in the issue.


  4. People may tell .pollsters climate change is on the top of their agenda or list of concerns, and that may be true, but when push comes to shove, it isn’t. We have only to look how we all live in this province and for that matter anywhere in North America. When gas prices rose, it was like the end of the world. For some it certainly was, it was too expensive and they didn’t have the income after paying for rent and food. If the government were to tax gas at a higher rate, they might find themselves out of office.

    Have a look at the malls. The parking lots are full. Have a look in the neighbourhood and see how many delivery vans are there every day delivering, phones, clothes, etc. Bigger t.v.s, new phones when they come out. People shop. Just have a look at the figures for consumer debt.

    We might be concerned about rising sea levels, droughts, but we won’t give up shopping for new, purchasing larger homes, etc.

    Evil Eye, yes people might not be renewing their memberships, but those are the party faithful and some aren’t happy. However, the voters, many who will never join the party or even admit they voted for Horgan, like what the NDP has been doing. Having always voted NDP and having friends who didn’t it was surprising how many voted NDP the last two elections.

    Horgan offered them something they didn’t have before, some one who cared about what they needed. %he NDP isn’t perfect but I remember what Bennett Jr. did after he replaced Barrett–started his program of downsizing the government. The firing of social workers impacted children in this province for decades. Gordon Campbell, first thing he did was attack the HEU and engage in the largest mass firing of women in Canadian history, all the hospital cleaners and the hospitals haven’t been too clean since.

    Contractors need to make a profit and pay their employees less than living wages. Along came Christy and she sure spent, on herself. Then we had all the money laundering and she and her government sat around doing little to nothing about the increasing deaths due to fent.

    Some of the newscasts have made great big deals about a lot of things, but really a lot of it is beyond the control of ANY political party.

    Eby will be able to lead the party better than the environmentalist. The environmentalist will simply cause the NDP to lose the next election. People may want to stop climate change, but they also want schools for their kids, more medical staff, affordable housing. When you’re waiting in the E.R. for hours or the ambulance doesn’t come as quick as you’d like, people forget about the environment and climate change. Yes, the forest fires and floods are awful, but they aren’t happening to the majority of people in the province.

    For those who think its a good thing for the NDP to lose members or an election, just remember what it was like after they voted Barrett out of office, Glen Clark, etc.

    The Socreds and B.C. Lieberals were never the friends of the people in this province.
    Voting Green is like voting B.C. Lieberal and good old Kevin and the gang.

    If you want an environmentalist to lead the NDP, that is your right. If you want the NDP to be elected again, perhaps Eby will be a better choice.


    • E.A.F. – Points you make are not wrong. As hard as it is to convince society’s leaders to consider climate change an existential issue, convincing the majority of citizens is even harder. When I see automobile companies boasting of engines with 500+ horsepower — my father drove a car with 36 —, I despair. Little progress can be made until business magnates and senior political figures offer real leadership and become dedicated to dealing with a climate emergency.

      Recently, I heard someone ask, “I gave up plastic straws, but what more can I do?” That sense of being powerless is widespread.

      A piece in the Harvard Business Review provided a worthwhile explanation of why people are not motivated to address climate change:

      First, acting on climate change represents a trade-off between short-term and long-term benefits, which is the hardest trade-off for people to make. Decades of work on temporal discounting point out that we overvalue benefits in the short term relative to benefits in the long term. People don’t save enough money for retirement, preferring to spend money now rather than having it in their old age. People overeat in the present, despite the problems that obesity can cause in the future.


    • Perhaps what we need is a leader. Someone, some party, who leads the Province with understanding and intelligence towards a sustainable tomorrow. Not just sustainable party finances, not just sustainable re-election plans. A government that will accept the reality of the mess we are making of our children’s chances and explain carefully and completely to people why things have to change.

      As I understand the concept it is that leaders lead, not follow the whims of their supporters.


  5. randyhadland: We have a leader and he has done a decent job given what he had to work with. A leader who works towards a sustainable tomorrow would be great, but the thing is the leader is only one person. The majority of voters aren’t going to follow, because having a sustainable tomorrow will require sacrifices the majority are not willing to make.
    Had to a laugh regarding the comment regarding giving up straws. Yes, people are giving up straws but that is painless for the a majority as is giving up plastic grocery bags. However both of these things benefit corporations and gives people the impression they are doing something to “help” the enviornment. Fast food resturants, etc. no longer supply straws and save a lot of money Its like American Airlines, who took one olive off their salads for first class and they saved $40K a year.
    Giving up straws and plastic bags are not going to save the enviornment We have to restrict mining, logging world wide, ensure water is clean, take all terrain vehicles out of the forests, stop killing wild life–hunting for sport, driving gas guzzlers, shopping until the earth can’t take it any more. Ensure corporations don’t dirty the enviornment. Reducing garbage–we bury it and then it seeps into ther ground and water.
    To get people to give all of how they live no one leader can accomplish. We as a society have to come to a consensus. A leader who would impose restrictions to improve the enviornment will find they are out of office on the next election,., People want change but not if it gores their ox.


    • No one person can be the complete leader, I agree. That is why a government has a Cabinet, a leader for forests, a leader for fisheries, a leader for housing etc. Wherein the leader gets out there and convinces the people of the need to change. Instead what we have in BC is a frightened bunch of people sitting or hiding behind desks, unable to address the issues that are important. What has happened? Before the election the NDP MLAs had voices.


  6. I am a former NDP member and still get occasional emails, including one from David Eby today. It asks me to rejoin or renew.

    “Membership costs just $10 — and your participation is crucial. We are down to the wire and we know the other side is signing up thousands of new members.”

    “Our campaign is signing up thousands of new members, too, but we cannot know for sure the total number signed up by each side. One thing is for sure — this is a sign up race and every day more and more new memberships are joining.”

    Occurs to me that in a “sign up race” the advantage goes to the candidate backed by almost every NDP member in the Legislature.Those men and women can move a lot of leadership votes. Just one more reason the insurgents are bound to fail.


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