A political scientist gives the government of B.C. Premier David Eby a mixed grade some 50-plus days into his various pledges, while praising specific aspects and the personal style of the province’s leader.
When asked about the B.C. NDP government’s touted 100-day action plan, Stewart Prest of Quest University Canada and formerly of Simon Fraser University said the government has correctly identified the challenges facing British Columbians, namely housing, health care and public safety.
But if it appears clear where the government’s priorities lie, key details about how the government plans to translate these priorities into specific outcomes remain outstanding, he said.
The public will get better sense of the details when Eby’s government plans to release its first budget in February.
“I would expect a budget with some big dollar figures,” said Prest, when asked about his expectations in pointing to the fiscal update released in November 2022 that shows the province with a budget surplus of $5.7 billion – far higher than previous estimates.
Looking at the bigger political picture, the New Democrats government has taken steps to shore up vulnerabilities as it seeks a third mandate. Prest said they include addressing the perception that New Democrats are soft on public safety — one of the first major announcement concerned the hiring of more police — and involving the public on the future of Royal B.C. Museum after last summer’s announced, then withdrawn plan to rebuild the facility to the tune of nearly $800 million.
Turning to other issues, Prest said the creation of a new ministry to deal with emergency management and climate readiness speaks to the fact that the climate change issue is taking up more of the government’s work. The new ministry is one of three now dealing with various facets of climate change, the other two being the ministry of environment and climate change and the ministry of land, water and resource stewardship.
On the other hand, he also acknowledged that this spreading of responsibility may mean that nobody deal with the issue adequately.
The province appears to be pursuing what Prest calls a “Goldilocks” approach in dealing with climate change through policies like the carbon tax and other measures, while also developing the province’s natural liquefied gas sector. He expects critics of the government concerned about climate change to be frustrated by this approach.
Prest also chided the government for not doing enough to deal with the opioid crisis, which many consider deadlier than the COVID-19 pandemic and having reach across all corners of the province.
“It’s not just a localized issue.”
The departure of former premier John Horgan and the arrival of his replacement has also brought a change in leadership style, said Prest with the proviso that he has never met Eby personally.
Eby’s arrival has brought a “wonkier style” to the premier’s office – a term Prest said isn’t intended to be negative.
Prest’s appraisal of Eby’s leadership style relative to Horgan and his ‘Premier Dad’ approach also comes with an appeal. Eby has to work on bringing the rest of the province along and cannot ignore the kind of retail politics in which his predecessor excelled.