Premier-designate David Eby is attempting to turn the page on his contentious BC NDP election victory with a new 100-day plan that tackles the biggest crises in the province.
The move began Friday with a splashy launch, and continues Monday as Eby visits the legislature to address the NDP caucus in person for the first time as leader.
It’s all part of Eby “positioning himself as the man of action,” as my colleague Jeff Ferrier put it on our most recent edition of our B.C. politics podcast Political Capital.
But if there’s one thing the 100-day plan is missing, it’s actionable items. It reads more like the table of contents of a book than it does a detailed list of the goals for the premier’s first three months in office.
Still, there are hopeful signs for New Democrats in the effort.
The first is that Eby is refocusing on delivering quantifiable change. This comes after months of the NDP government being hammered by the Opposition BC Liberals for stubbornly failing to recognize the gap between what it has been saying, and what is actually happening. The government looks foolish for trumpeting minor budget lifts to Crown prosecutors as random crime shoots up on the streets, or unveiling flashy five-year HR plans for health-care recruitment as hospital ERs are closing.
Eby refocusing on actual, visible, progress is the best way to combat the NDP’s critics.
“Over the years, it has been about delivering results for people that they can see, that they can touch, that they can feel that change their lives,” said Eby.
“If the work that I'm doing doesn't do that, then I've changed direction because that is so central to what I want to do. I want to deliver for people in very real ways.”
At the top of the list? Housing.
“When I think about what I heard when I was travelling around the province, so many of the challenges we face are related to the idea of B.C. having a secure home for everybody, being a secure home for everybody,” he said.
In describing housing, Eby echoed the speaking points of federal Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre, who in British Columbia earlier this year lamented that young Vancouverites living in their parents’ basements weren’t able to have the freedom the previous generation enjoyed.
“If you're a young person living at home, you want to move out of Mom and Dad's place, and you can't find somewhere to go, you wonder, when does my life begin as an adult?” Eby asked, when unveiling his plan.
New Democrats might be uncomfortable with Eby cribbing lines from the Poilievre book of political rhetoric, but there’s also no doubt that they are effective.
“For the families that are earning a decent income out there, and you're looking around and you can't find a place you can afford to buy, you can't find a place you can afford to rent, we are on your side,” said Eby.
“We will deliver that housing for you.”
On housing, Eby has a plan. It was the only plank of his campaign he released during the short race, before opponent Anjali Appadurai was disqualified. It calls for a flipping tax, a massive government building program, money to buy up and protect rental buildings, provincewide permission for secondary suites, up-zoned density for single family homes in urban areas and penalties for municipalities that don’t meet housing targets.
But the other sections of his 100-day plan fall well short of that kind of detail.
“You will see significant initiatives from us supporting our public health-care system in British Columbia,” is about as specific as Eby got on health care.
That includes helping with mental health and addictions, though exactly how he plans to tackle such large and complex problems is unknown.
Eby also cited improvements to family doctors, noting his wife Cailey is a family physician. And he promised to speed up credentials for foreign-trained doctors (though this is mainly a federal responsibility).
On crime, things got even murkier.
Eby at least acknowledged what the Horgan government for many months has not – that people feel unsafe on B.C. streets, and the current direction of the government’s public safety plan is lacking.
“For those of you who are looking at your downtown course, and you are distressed about seeing people who are visibly ill living in the streets of your community, then it makes you feel that your downtown is not as safe as it used to be… we will deliver for you,” said Eby.
“You will see significant initiatives around public safety out of our government that address the core issues, and that make your downtowns safe for you.”
On climate change, Eby offered an olive branch to Appadurai and her thousands of eco-conscious supporters signed up in the race.
“British Columbians know we cannot continue to subsidize fossil fuels and expect to transition to a clean energy future,” he said.
“You will see initiatives where we transfer those subsidies to the future that we all deserve.”
Yet when pressed on whether that means he’ll allow more liquified natural gas facilities, Eby sidestepped, offering only that “we need to be leaders on this issue” and he “looks forward to making announcements about how we’re going to do that.”
He also cited “an acceleration of our old-growth plan” – though if there was an politically palatable path out of that conflict between forest-dependent communities and the protection of ancient logs, the government would have found and taken it years ago.
In the end, Eby said the goal of the 100-day action plan was to present a clear difference to voters between the NDP and the Liberals. He ruled out an early election prior to the Oct. 19, 2024 fixed election date.
“We will deliver on those initiatives that I have outlined for you, so that British Columbians have a very obvious choice when it comes to the ballot box at the next election,” he said.
The 100-day action plan hit the right notes on the right areas. More crucially, it’s an acknowledgment that the NDP government in its fifth year of power must pivot hard to provide actual visible results.
The next steps for Eby then, are action items – a list of what he intends to do, with deadlines to get it done.
It’s here where the rubber will meet the road. And where things for the new premier will start getting much, much more difficult.
Rob Shaw has spent more than 14 years covering B.C. politics, now reporting for CHEK News and writing for Glacier Media. He is the co-author of the national bestselling book A Matter of Confidence, and a regular guest on CBC Radio.