Eby Enters the Fray

Game on — let the campaigns begin. That was the tenor last night at St. James Community Square Hall in Kitsilano, where local BC NDP supporters and party leader Adrian Dix officially acclaimed David Eby as their nominee to run against Premier Christy Clark in Vancouver-Point Grey.

“This is the kickoff to our election campaign,” stated the riding association’s president, “and with David Eby as our candidate for Vancouver-Point Grey!”

Even though the 2013 BC provincial election is still over six months away, the rally mindset is already mobilizing for the NDP. The narratives and themes that will carry their campaigns forward have been building for months, and most will center around a pointed criticism of Premier Clark’s leadership.

And nowhere is such a narrative more apparent or symbolic than in Vancouver-Point Grey — the Premier’s own riding, where she narrowly defeated Eby by only 564 votes in the 2011 byelection. That close contest, coupled with the opportunity to deal a direct blow to the BC Liberal’s and Clark this time around, has given the riding a special glow for the NDP.

Last night, after a long summation on the history of the riding and its importance, party leader Adrian Dix even suggested that Eby’s first showing against Clark was “the moment the Liberal Party momentum was broken” in BC.

It was grand and elevating language, and the riding seems destined to occupy privileged space within the party’s overall message strategy for the 2013 election.

When Eby himself took the stage the focus was slanted slightly away from purely localized issues, and toward a more province-wide set of concerns.

“I want to let you know you about why I’m running this time,” he began. “There are five important numbers that I want to share with you. They sound random, but they’re not: 525, 55, 10, 350, 564.”

Eby went on to explain that the numbers referred to key policy points.

525 referred to the 525,000 barrels of oil per day that will be piped by Enbridge from Alberta to the BC coast with its proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline project, he explained, while 55 referred to the percentage of adults in BC prisons awaiting sentencing. 10 referred to the almost 10 million dollars spent on lawyers in the missing women’s case, and 350 is the number of calls responded to in the past year by the Kitsilano Coast Guard station. 564 referred, of course, to the number of votes by which Clark beat him in 2009.

Eby called the Northern Gateway Pipeline a “risky enterprise.” He suggested that the number of adults in prison awaiting sentencing is both inefficient and unjust, and he criticized the lack of funding and resources made available for sex workers. Closer to home, he called Christy Clark’s silence on the pending closure of the Kits Coast Guard station — in her own constituency — “inexplicable.”

On the narrowness of Clark’s 2009 victory Eby appealed to promise, citing the difference that a full general campaign will make as opposed to a hasty byelection one.

“These are five numbers,” he concluded, “that illustrate why an NDP government in British Columbia would make such a difference if we’re elected in May of next year.”

But that prospect might not be so much of an “if” at all.

All recent polling suggests that both Eby and the NDP are in for significant victories over Clark and the BC Liberals, and an Angus-Reid opinion poll in September put Premier Clark’s approval rating at just 28%, and the NDP leading the Liberals by roughly 20 points.

Six months is a long time in politics, and anything can change, a point made clear by Dix who warned supporters that — despite being on the proper electoral trajectory — vigilance would be needed to maintain it.

Confidence, enthusiasm, and rallying points go a long way toward such maintenance — and it appears for now that David Eby’s nomination in Vancouver-Point Grey is an attempt to tap into all three.