Premier David Eby told provincial NDP supporters that his party will not back down on the fight against climate change.
Eby used his speech to provincial New Democrats attending their party convention in Victoria Saturday (Nov. 18) to list various accomplishments, while broadly framing the next provincial election as a choice between social democratic and right-of-centre policies with BC United leader Kevin Falcon receiving heavy criticism.
Eby also used his speech to more than 700 delegates from across B.C. to send a broader message about B.C.’s commitment to carbon taxation.
“Let me be clear, we will not back down,” he said. “God forbid, if the rest of the country abandons the fight against climate, B.C. will stand strong.”
He later doubled down on that during a news conference.
“Right now, we have to be a leader on this issue, because we are also a leader in feeling the effects of climate change in British Columbia,” he said. He repeated his argument that the 2023 summer showed the urgency to fight climate change and accused parties promising to eliminate carbon taxation of political expendicy and shortsightedness.
“All the other parties that seem to me, in an effort to win votes, are willing to sell their children’s future. I think it’s unacceptable, we won’t do it and we’ll support strong climate action.”
During his speech, Eby criticized Falcon for his promise to eliminate the provincial carbon tax if both BC United and the federal Conservatives were to be in power.
He said British Columbians will have a choice between two different governing philosophies — one that sees government as a problem and needing to get out of the way and another that sees government as a force for good.
“I believe British Columbians are in a place, where they will be glad for a strong government that stands up for them and supports them on the big issues at a time … when the solutions are not going to come from the market alone,” he said. “There are two different views on how we move forward and I think the choice will be quite stark.”
Eby highlighted Falcon’s opposition to the recent run of housing legislation, which can be read as a response to criticism from BC United that blames Eby specifically, and the New Democrats generally, for B.C.’s high housing prices.
But Eby also acknowledged that British Columbians face “big, complex problems.”
Eby used the first part of his speech to note that “working people were under constant attack” before New Democrats came to power in 2017, listing off various policy change since then. They include reforming the system of political donations, raising the minimum wage to one of the highest in Canada, rehiring privatized health care workers and eliminating various premiums and levies. “Instead of cutting taxes for those that are already, we are cutting costs for everybody in this province,” he said.
He framed these policies as part of a government that has invested in B.C.’s physical and social infrastructure.
“Instead of cutting, we are building.”
He later also signalled that interventionist approach would continue when asked about new figures that showed B.C.’s budget deficit will be $6.7 billion by year’s end.
Pointing to six years of balanced budgets, Eby said now is not the time for cuts or reductions in public services in the face of various factors such as higher interest rates, inflation and energy costs related to global conflicts.
“Those (investments in public services and buildings) are things that are going to serve us for the long term,” he said.
The convention runs through to Sunday, and it’s the first under Eby who took over as premier last year on Nov. 18, 2022.
Entering the convention centre’s mainhall to Fleetwood Mac’s “Don’t Stop,” Eby sprinkled his speech with several moments of humour, including references to his predecessor John Horgan, whom Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appointed as Canada’s new ambassador to Germany.
Eby said Horgan couldn’t make it because he said something about getting fitted for Lederhosen.
Eby’s wife Cailey Lynch introduced Eby and dropped a big piece of personal news when she announced that she was pregnant with the couple’s third child said to be due in June 2024.
“The baby was planned and that is not why contraception is free in B.C.,” she said.