David Eby was sworn in as B.C.’s 37th premier at the Musqueam Community Centre in Vancouver on Friday, announcing two cost-of-living credits just minutes into his new role.
Eby, 46, the first B.C. premier sworn in at a ceremony hosted by a First Nation, replaces premier John Horgan, 63, who announced in June he would step down in the fall after completing radiation treatment for throat cancer.
In a speech after taking the oath of office, Eby, wearing the patent leather shoes his father gave him when he was in law school, pledged to “hit the ground running in the days and weeks ahead to deliver results people can see and feel in their lives and in their communities.”
He began with the two combined credits intended to help B.C. residents and businesses people with rising costs for utilities, groceries and transportation — a one-time B.C. Hydro rebate and an “affordability credit” for low- to middle-income earners.
The $100 credit for B.C. Hydro customers, including those with B.C. Hydro services through Fortis B.C. or municipal utility, will be applied automatically to residents’ bills this fall.
Commercial ratepayers, including small and medium-size businesses like restaurants and tourism operators, will receive a one-time bill credit averaging $500.
The hydro rebate was originally announced in late summer, though no amount had been decided upon. The Crown-owned utility is able to afford the credit due to market conditions that resulted in increased trade and domestic revenues, according to the province.
Over the next 18 months to two years, Eby said, he wants his team to deliver “real, concrete things that [British Columbians] can see, that they can touch, that show them the direction we’re going.”
The B.C. Affordability Credit, delivered through the carbon tax credit, will provide up to an additional $164 per adult and $41 per child — or up to $410 for a family with two children earning $43,051, with a sliding scale of credits for families earning up to $150,051.
The combined credits are not the “full answer” but will help people who are “really struggling” and deciding between paying rent and buying groceries, said Eby.
The new premier said he will announce on Sunday the province’s public-safety plan, which will address the “root causes” of public-safety issues.
Then on Monday, Eby said, the government will introduce legislation to address the housing crisis, aimed at “opening thousands of units of housing for rental” and building more homes through partnerships with municipalities.
The last day of the legislature fall session is Thursday, giving Eby just four days to introduce bills. After that, sittings won’t resume until February. Eby has said much of his agenda won’t require legislation.
Eby also promised announcements aimed at bolstering the ranks of those working in health care. “We have health-care workers who are on the sidelines right now, because their credentials are not recognized.” He referenced a Chilliwack couple, a dentist and surgeon, who are working for the local school board because they were unable to be approved to work in their fields here.
Eby noted Health Minister Adrian Dix announced $12 million in April to ease the nursing shortage by fast-tracking the accreditation process for internationally trained nurses. “We need to expand that work and I’m very excited about what we’re going to do there,” said Eby.
Eby also previously vowed to bring in a flipping tax to dissuade real estate speculators, to end fossil fuel subsidies, to legalize secondary suites in all regions of the province and to allow developers to replace a single-family home with up to three units in major urban centres.
Friday’s ceremony included welcoming remarks by Chief Wayne Sparrow (yəχʷyaχʷələq) of the Musqueam Indian Band. The chief and Musqueam warrior singers and drummers ushered Eby in and afterwards conducted a traditional blanket ceremony.
Traditionally, swearing-in ceremonies are held at Government House, but the larger ballroom was already booked. Eby said it made sense to hold it in his home community, where he has served as MLA for almost a decade, on Musqueam territory.
Sparrow called the historic event “an encouraging signal that [Eby] is dedicated to reconciliation and authentic partnerships with First Nations,” adding: “We want action that creates substantial, positive change for Musqueam and all Indigenous people in B.C.”
Eby said the ceremony represented a merging of traditions — the British colonial tradition, represented by Lt.-Gov. Janet Austin, and First Nations traditions.
In his remarks, Horgan said B.C.’s late 26th premier, Dave Barrett, was likely looking down on the ceremony, saying: “I never thought I would see a B.C. NDP premier passing the baton to a B.C. NDP premier, so very, very special day.”
Horgan also joked that in office, he looked for the tallest guy in the room — Eby is six foot seven — and piled increasing responsibilities on the MLA’s shoulders. Eby, he said, approached the tasks with enthusiasm, commitment and compassion. “I proudly and unreservedly turn to the tallest guy in the room and say congratulations, Premier Eby. It’s going to be a great ride. We’ve done much [and] we have more to do.”
In response, Eby quipped that he’s not as tall as he looks “because I’m standing on the shoulders of John Horgan.”
Eby, a married father of two, was joined Friday by family and friends, including wife Cailey Lynch, son Ezra and daughter Ivy. At the beginning of his speech, he said he was trying to avoid eye contact with them because “I’ve got to not cry here.”
MacPhail, chair of B.C. Ferries’ board of directors, said big problems demand bold action and Eby’s calm, considerate and measured approach will help. She called him “fearless” and open to innovative ideas, referencing his no-fault insurance reforms in 2018, when Eby turned ICBC rate hikes into rebates.
“There’s no doubt that David has the right approach for these challenging times – he’s always thinking about how to deliver results that make life better for everyone.”