The blizzard of major new policy announcements that David Eby has made in his first four days as premier prompts some curiosity about where all these ideas came from, and when.
He opened on Friday with a $100 gift to all residential electricity customers and another credit to all low and middle income taxpayers. There was a time when the independent B.C. Utilities Commission would have a say in whether a rebate is a sound idea. But the NDP, following B.C. Liberal custom, just jammed it through the utilities commission the same day it was announced, by cabinet order. And the order is 12 pages of legalese, so it was in the works for a while.
On Sunday he announced a multi-faceted new law-and-order drive with five big initiatives, all of which were just as badly needed during the five years he was attorney general as they are now.
On Monday he announced a major push to address B.C.’s housing crisis, with two bills that, as above, would have been welcomed as the squeeze tightened during the two years he served as housing minister as well as attorney general.
He resigned both posts July 19 when he declared he was running for the NDP leadership. It looks like it was a very productive four month time-out. He’s dropped about a dozen new concepts in his first three days as premier.
But it’s strange that he had to take a break from those jobs before he could develop all these new ideas on how to do them. And it’s worth noting that his first two moves were on severe problems in areas for which he was responsible as a cabinet minister.
Eby has noted a few times that a lot of work has gone into the announcements he used to launch his premiership.
“Legislation like this doesn’t show up overnight,” he said of the housing bills. “This is the product of extensive work with key community stakeholders … making sure that it will be effective.”
Regarding the public safety announcements, he said they were the product of collaboration across ministries and beyond.
“So these are really solutions that are coming, that are proven to work in communities, that are coming from the grassroots, up to government and working across ministries in a collaborative way.”
He also noted that he spent months campaigning around B.C. and hearing concerns about street disorder, so he made it a key priority.
He made a point of thanking “all of the teams within the provincial government that pulled this together … and our nonprofit partners.”
It’s a description that suggests all these good ideas were piling up on government shelves, waiting for a new premier’s transition team to raid the cupboard and slam them all into place.
But the various crises they are aimed at solving have been building inexorably for years. Most of his initiatives would have been welcomed well before now.
Eby, who is committed to the fixed date election schedule, pretty much explicitly acknowledged the reason. Election timing is top of mind from here on in.
“I’ve got two years with my team to deliver for BCers, to show them that we’re fighting for them. … I make absolutely no apologies for being in a hurry.”
The most intriguing burst of initiative is the directive to Crown counsel to advocate against bail for suspects in violent crime.
Eby spent much of his last year as attorney general commiserating with victims of violent crime, when it came up in the legislature, but generally defended the status quo measures in play.
Opposition Liberals started pitching the concept of officially directing prosecutors to get tougher in bail hearings months ago. Attorney General Murray Rankin was mildly interested, but repeatedly stressed how federal law and the judiciary tie provincial hands.
Then on Sunday, Eby revealed that Rankin issued a directive four days earlier to implement a “clear and understandable approach to bail for repeat violent offenders.” (It takes effect today.)
Whether it will make a difference is up for debate, but the point is, it was accomplished inside of a week, after months of nothing much happening.
The sudden rollout of new approaches to old problems is refreshing, but it leaves you wondering about how many people sustained losses while the NDP was engineering an action-packed launch for the new premier.
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