Penticton MLA Dan Ashton says the B.C. NDP’s decision to disqualify Anjali Appadurai from its own leadership race — effectively clearing the path for David Eby to be the province’s next premier — deprived party members of making a democratic choice.
After serving as B.C.’s housing minister and engaging in conflict with Penticton city officials over the status of the Victory Church homeless shelter in 2021, Eby will replace John Horgan as premier later this year. Eby is being sworn in as party leader on Friday morning, Oct. 21.
A leaked NDP report earlier this week recommended the disqualification of Appadurai from the race, prompting Penticton’s MLA to question his opposition’s leadership process. The eventual decision to oust the 32-year-old candidate makes Eby the only candidate for the province’s top political job.
“May as well end this charade of NDP democracy and anoint the chosen one,” Ashton said. “It surprises me that they would just do a crowning and I don’t think that’s healthy — for the people in the caucus, the people of the party and the people of British Columbia.”
Ashton, who’s served as Penticton’s MLA since 2013, took aim at the B.C. NDP once again Thursday following its clear intent to name Eby the party’s leader with no formal vote.
“They’ve deprived their own members of a democratic choice for leader,” Ashton, a B.C. Liberal, said.
According to Elizabeth Cull, the B.C. NDP’s chief electoral officer, Appadurai was removed from the race after engaging in “serious improper conduct” with third parties to increase her membership base. Prior to the official announcement of her disqualification, Appadurai said the decision would “ripple through” the party and “democracy for years to come.”
Ashton, though not affiliated with the NPD, agrees.
“For a party that talks about fairness, democracy and inclusiveness, it didn’t appear so on this one,” he said.
Eby was involved in a 2021 lawsuit with the City of Penticton after he exercised provincial powers to keep the Victory Church temporary homeless shelter open, instead of honouring the local council’s decision to close it.
Despite the local controversy, Ashton hopes he can continue to have a positive working relationship with B.C.’s next premier.
“I do my best to keep a good relationship with everyone in the legislature,” he said. “In my opinion, that’s how I’ve been able to get things done down here.”
Horgan announced his intentions to step down as premier in June, prompting what’s resulted in a non-competitive NDP leadership race. Eby and Appadurai were the only ones to throw their names in the hat.
“You would think the opportunity to become premier of the province would be a draw,” Ashton said.