BC NDP leadership candidate says party is too comfortable and needs a shake-up

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Anjali Appadurai thinks the provincial NPD party has drifted too far towards the centre.

Speaking to around 60 people at Nelson’s Lakeside Park on Tuesday, she said the party had become too comfortable with business as usual.

“I think a lot of members had a hard time differentiating that party from more centrist elements,” she said. “And so I’m articulating a vision that’s very different…And I think that brings a lot of people upset.”

She said social justice and climate activists need to “push them to be better”.

Appadurai attempts to achieve this by running for the party leadership. She is, so far, the only candidate in the race other than the former housing minister and attorney general David Ebywhich has the support of more than 80% of the NDP caucus.

The winner of the leadership contest will become Prime Minister, replacing John Horgan, until the next election to be held on or before October 19, 2024.

To succeed in his leadership bid, Appadurai will need to garner a majority of votes from NDP members, who currently number about 11,000 in British Columbia.

She hopes to recruit thousands of new members to support her, and she also wants to gain the support of current NDP members who she says have been unhappy with the government’s position on issues such as Site C, fracking , old growth forests and the Wet’suwet’en conflict.

“We don’t see signals from the government that their plans will be changed, not just in the environment but in all public systems,” she said. “We’ve actually heard the opposite, that they intend to continue on the current trajectory, and for a lot of people that’s incredibly frustrating.”

She urged the crowd to join the party before September 4, the deadline to be eligible for the November vote.

When Appadurai ran in the last federal election as the NDP candidate in the riding of Vancouver Granville, she lost to the Liberal candidate by 436 votes.

It was her first run in electoral politics, and she is proud of her near victory because “it was a very popular groundswell that arose – activists and organizers that I worked with for more than a decade have come together to make this campaign incredibly important.”

Appadurai’s journey since her teenage years has been that of a climate and social justice activist. She has worked for West Coast Environmental Law, the Sierra Club and the David Suzuki Foundation Climate Emergency Unit. She worked with an international coalition trying to influence governments at the United Nations.

Appadurai said she wants the NDP to do better on climate change, adding that climate is not a single issue, but a global issue that affects everyone else.

“It’s not just an environmental issue, as many have tried to box it up,” she said. “It’s fundamentally about our relationship with each other and with the land, and with our economies.”

She saw last summer’s heat, fires and floods in the province as ‘a flag for the rest of the world’ as well as an indicator of how emissions, health care and housing are linked .

Most of the people who died in the heated dome last summer died at home, she said.

“It’s unlike any other disaster we’ve seen in Canadian history, with the vast majority of people dying at home,” she said, adding that it points to the need for simultaneous “deep investments” in housing, healthcare and reducing emissions.

She argued for “an immediate and controlled decline of the fossil fuel industry, which puts workers first with major public investment in training programs for green jobs”.

This could be funded using savings from stopping subsidies to fossil fuel companies, she said.

“The only thing preventing this from happening is political will. There is no other reason why we cannot begin this transition. There will be legal penalties, and there needs to be transparency about that for the public. It’s going to cost us money to get out of this mess.

She proposed a moratorium on old-growth logging, a Site C referendum, heat pumps required in all buildings, and a halt to construction of homes that use natural gas heating. She said the government should stop classifying LNG as a green fuel.

Appadurai proposes changing the electoral system by introducing proportional representation, forming citizens’ assemblies on important issues and lowering the voting age to 16.

“Look at this generation, they know more and they understand the climate issue with a degree of nuance that surpasses almost anyone I know in government. And so lowering the voting age to 16 is also a very important part of that.


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