Anjali Appadurai thinks the provincial NDP party has drifted too much toward the centre.
In a talk to about 60 people at Nelson’s Lakeside Park on Tuesday, she said the party has become too comfortable with business as usual.
“I think a lot of members were having a hard time differentiating this party from more centrist elements,” she said. “And so I’m articulating a vision that’s very different … And I think that’s bringing a lot of disaffected folks back.”
She said social justice and climate activists need to “push them to be better.”
Appadurai is attempting to accomplish this by running for the leadership of the party. She is, so far, the only candidate in the race other than former housing minister and attorney general David Eby, who has the support of more than 80 per cent of the NDP caucus.
The winner of the leadership contest will become the premier, replacing the retiring John Horgan, until the next election to be held on or before Oct. 19, 2024.
To succeed in her bid for the leadership, Appadurai will have to attract a majority of the votes of NDP members, which currently number about 11,000 in B.C.
She hopes to sign up thousands of new members to support her, and she also wants to gain the support of current NDP members who, she says, have been disaffected by the government’s stance on such things as Site C, fracking, old growth, and the Wet’suwet’en conflict.
“We’re not seeing signals from the government that their plans will be changed, not just in environment but in all public systems,” she said. “We’ve in fact heard the opposite, that they intend to continue in the current trajectory, and for a lot of people that is incredibly frustrating.”
She urged the crowd to join the party by Sept. 4, the deadline to be eligible for the November vote.
When Appadurai ran in the last federal election as an NDP candidate in the Vancouver Granville riding, she lost to the Liberal candidate by 436 votes.
It was her first run at electoral politics, and she is proud of her near-victory because “it was a very grassroots groundswell that rose up – activists and organizers that I’ve worked with for over a decade came together to make that campaign incredibly momentous.”
Appadurai’s background, starting in her teen years, is as a climate and social justice activist. She has worked for West Coast Environmental Law, the Sierra Club, and the David Suzuki Foundation’s climate emergency unit. She worked with an international coalition that was attempting 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 an all-encompassing one that affects all the others.
“It’s not just an environmental issue, as so many have tried to box it in as,” 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 bellwether 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 last summer’s heat dome died in their own homes, she said.
“This is different from any other disaster that we’ve had in Canadian history, with the vast majority of people were dying in their homes,” she said, adding that this indicates the need for simultaneous “deep investments” in housing, health care and emissions reduction.
She argued for “an immediate managed decline of the fossil fuel industry, one that puts workers first with major public investment in training programs for green jobs.”
This could be funded by using savings gained from stopping subsidies to fossil fuel companies, she said.
“The only thing stopping that from happening is political will. There’s no other reason why we can’t begin that transition. There will be legal penalties, and there has to be transparency about that to the public. It’s going to cost us money to get out of this mess.”
She proposed a moratorium on old growth logging, a referendum on Site C, heat pumps required in all buildings, and stopping the construction of homes that use natural gas heating. She said the government should stop classing LNG as a green fuel.
Appadurai proposes changing the electoral system by bringing in 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 a really huge part of this as well.”