Skip to content
Join our Newsletter

Editorial: In this election, Eby should be put to the test

B.C. NDP Premier David Eby’s platform has been clear. Does it face up to the huge challenges we face?
B.C. Premier David Eby arrives for a housing announcement on Wilson Street in Vic West on April 3, 2023. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

In our democracy, the majority has the right to make decisions, and the minority has the right to oppose those decisions and offer other choices.

To take it a step further: The official Opposition has an obligation, a responsibility, to provide cohesive policy alternatives in the next election.

This is not happening in British Columbia today. Blame personalities and egos.

With a lengthy list of major issues facing the province, this year’s election should be hotly contested. It should allow voters to pass judgment on the platform of Premier David Eby, who has not won an election, before giving him free rein for another four years.

His platform has been clear. Does it face up to the huge challenges we face? There are bold initiatives, but there are also problems worthy of debate.

The shortage of family doctors is having a negative impact on a million British Columbians.

Thousands have died in the fentanyl crisis. The government’s safe supply ideology is failing.

Eby’s government is fully responsible for the rising tide of government spending, evident in the nearly 50 per cent increase in staff without a matching improvement in services.

The economy is weakening. Our credit rating is dropping, meaning more money spent on interest charges and less on programs. The private sector is not creating new jobs, nor is the government investing in research to spur productivity growth.

Housing is in crisis, and Eby has been busy with announcements and policy changes. Some of his ideas are sound — but his government has raised our costs, taken away property rights and made it less attractive for people to own rental property.

Will these changes create more housing? They haven’t so far; they have simply directed more money to the provincial government and taken control from local elected governments.

And don’t forget the glacial pace of aid after the fire in Lytton and the flood in the Fraser Valley. Or the disrespect shown to Selina Robinson.

Many voters will support Eby, arguing that he is brilliant and bold, and will vote for the New Democrats no matter what — just as many voters will automatically vote against his party.

But elections are decided not by the party faithful, but by those who swing between parties, and this time about half of them will be looking for a single centre-right choice.

When we have two major parties, one on the centre left and one on the centre right, we get healthy debate and sound decision-making. The system falls apart when one side fractures.

Polls this early in the election cycle can be suspect, but they are consistently showing that the centre-right vote will split, giving the NDP an easy victory. Conservatives will form the official Opposition, and the United and Green parties will win a handful of seats each.

Barring a radical change, when Eby gives his victory speech in October, he should be prepared to thank Kevin Falcon and John Rustad for their help. By pulling votes from each other, after all, the Conservative and the United candidates will allow the NDP to walk up the middle.

The NDP won for the first time in 1972 thanks to vote splitting. Before the 1975 election, the centre-right forces united under the Social Credit banner and the NDP was defeated.

After Social Credit splintered again in 1991, the NDP took power again, and held it for a decade, losing until a new coalition formed as the B.C. Liberals.

By 2017, the Liberal brand was weakening. Strong support for a Conservative candidate in Courtenay-Comox gave the seat — and the provincial election — to the NDP.

As another election draws closer, the opposition is still in disarray. That means the province will miss the chance for an open debate — or a viable alternative.

History tells us that the centre right will eventually come together as one party. It might be too late for this election, so it is more likely to be a factor in 2028.

This year, the Conservatives have momentum and United supporters have wishful thinking. Neither party can form government; one is destined to be the official Opposition, the other a rump.

In B.C. politics, a week is a long time and six months is an eternity. A lot can happen before the writ is dropped — but the split that broke the centre-right party into two parties won’t be healed if inexperience and ego are driving decisions.

Eby’s been busy putting his mark on the province. For the good of the province, and for democracy, his record and his plans should come under a microscope.

It is hard to imagine Eby losing this year. But it would be better for everyone if his victory were against one strong opponent offering clear alternatives.