On Tuesday, Vancouver briefly had the worst air quality on earth. This was caused by a thick layer of wildfire smoke, arriving in the middle of an abnormally hot and dry spell in a province typically known for never-ending showers during the fall. This week’s hazy skies came just over a year after a record-breaking heat dome killed more than 600 people in British Columbia, and almost a year after the province saw catastrophic floods — both driven by the climate crisis.
Late on Wednesday night, the B.C. NDP decided to disqualify left-wing climate activist and former federal candidate Anjali Appadurai, after a report written by Elizabeth Cull, a former liquefied natural gas lobbyist serving as the party’s chief electoral officer (CEO), accused Appadurai of engaging in “serious improper conduct” by “coordinating” with third party groups, including Dogwood BC, an environmental organization (which has consistently demonstrated it did nothing wrong during the campaign).
In a scathing response and subsequent press conference, Appadurai panned the investigation’s conclusions, accusing Cull of operating with a bias against her from the outset, and changing the contest’s rules mid-campaign and applying them retroactively.
The report’s recommendation for disqualification, Appadurai said, was “weighted in favour of a foregone conclusion.” In a particularly stinging rebuke, Appadurai wrote that suggestions she colluded with Dogwood at a Zoom meeting that predated the formal launch of her campaign and during the weeks following demonstrated a “fundamental inability to understand social movements and how they work” on the CEO’s part.
Throughout the course of the campaign, the B.C. NDP brass — and some corporate media pundits — have sought to frame Appadurai’s bid for leadership as an attempted “hostile takeover” of the NDP by Green Party members and/or third-party environmental groups (the precise narrative changed at various points during the campaign). As reported by The Breach, many of those flimsy attacks were led by “an emerging class of NDP-connected lobbyists” whose clients include fossil fuel companies.
Contrary to this narrative, however, it was Wednesday’s decision that amounted to a “hostile takeover” of a democratic leadership contest, paving the way for former attorney general and housing minister David Eby to enter the premier’s office unopposed, and spurning the thousands of new members who converged behind Appadurai’s campaign. By some estimates, Appadurai attracted as many as 10,000 new members to the party, compared to Eby’s 6,000.
The disqualification decision, excoriated by at least one legal expert as being based on a report tainted with evidence of “bias” and sleights of hand — and rejected by grassroots party members as “ridiculous” — was made before Elections BC could complete its own investigation into the allegations of third-party collusion. In other words, the NDP conveniently killed the possibility of an independent adjudication of their claims against Appadurai.
Wednesday’s decision was also based on suggestions that some new members “fraudulently join[ed] the BC NDP despite being members or supporters of other political parties.” This came after the NDP spent the past two months subjecting new members to what the members themselves described as “McCarthy-esque” phone calls from the party demanding confessions about their past political affiliations, with a particular focus on weeding out former Green Party members deemed insufficiently loyal to the NDP.
For perspective, the B.C. Green Party is reported to have approximately 4,000 members — less than half the NDP’s estimated total membership before the leadership race began. But that didn’t stop the NDP from sending a pair of unhinged letters to the Green Party before Thanksgiving weekend, demanding they share their membership list with a third-party reviewer, before making a thinly veiled threat to have the Greens deregistered as a political party when they refused to comply with the absurd request.
Cull’s report presented no evidence that the Green Party co-ordinated any attempt to “takeover” the NDP, and even failed to provide a definition of what constitutes a “supporter” of another party, meaning it’s likely some of those deemed ineligible for NDP membership weren’t actually current members or supporters of any other party.
Insistence from party officials that these membership screenings were simply a matter of due diligence and normal for any leadership race would have been much more believable had B.C. NDP caucus members not leaked to mainstream reporters that they were hellbent on removing Appadurai from the race.
As Global News’ Keith Baldrey candidly put it in September: “I can tell you that there are a fair number of NDP MLAs who are hoping her candidacy is denied, or at the very least the party memberships secured by her campaign are ruled ineligible.”
With the party’s desired outcome being so brazenly and arrogantly laid out in the open, how does the NDP expect anyone to believe that this was a process launched and conducted in good faith? The likely answer is: they don’t, but also, they don’t care.
Yesterday, outgoing premier John Horgan lost his temper when a journalist asked why the names of the party’s executive council, which made the final decision to disqualify Appadurai, weren’t public. Visibly angry, Horgan said the council members were being harassed by “Green Party members saying we want to take over your party,” suggesting that those members were engaging in “thuggery.” As pointed out by Harsha Walia, “thuggees” was largely popularized/invented by british raj to justify mass suppression campaign[s].” Appadurai is South Asian.
For his part, Eby, who expressed his annoyance at Appadurai for daring to interrupt his coronation at the launch of her campaign, attempted a more conciliatory tone, saying the race didn’t pan out as he expected but conceding that the movement his rival inspired is “an important part of the future of our party.” He said he hoped those activists would remain in the party, and be part of its “climate plan.”
Speaking with supporters outside the B.C. legislature, Appadurai conceded that Eby would be the next premier, but said she is considering a legal challenge and appeals to her disqualification. She said she’s not leaving the NDP, and encouraged her supporters to also remain in the party. There are reported indications that she and Eby could engage in some kind of dialogue.
Over the coming weeks and months, new NDP members who joined to throw their support behind a left-wing climate champion determined to change the course of the B.C. NDP government’s support for corporate fossil-fuel interests will have important questions to ask themselves. Can a party that has demonstrated such hostility toward social movements be considered a viable vehicle for transforming society for the better and averting climate catastrophe?
Whatever decision they make, the message from the B.C. NDP brass to its membership is clear: Long live premier Eby. Death to party democracy.