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Opinion: Anjali Appadurai probably doesn’t expect to win, but her entry is likely to focus the leadership debate on to climate change

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VICTORIA — Climate activist Anjali Appadurai launched a bid for the B.C. NDP leadership on Wednesday with a challenge to the party establishment, including presumed front-runner David Eby.

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“We are seeing people’s lives crumble faster than this government can offer solutions,” declared Appadurai.

“We are seeing the province burn. … We are seeing a whole generation of young people who don’t feel they have hope in this government and electoral politics in general,” she told Richard Zussman of Global TV.

As for Eby, Appadurai regards him as a “great politician,” but one who betrayed his activist roots.

“Ten years ago, he was the insurgent, the activist,” she said. “But what David Eby represents right now is the party establishment. It is the party status quo. There is disillusionment.”

Appadurai, 31, was the NDP candidate in Vancouver-Granville in last year’s federal election, losing narrowly to Liberal Taleeb Noormohamed.

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She’s director of campaigns for the Climate Emergency Unit, an organization pressing “for the implementation of wartime-scale policies in Canada to confront the climate crisis.”

Eby, 45, welcomed Appadurai to a campaign that seemed poised for his coronation in early October until she came forward.

“I wish her luck, but not too much luck!” he wrote in a posting on his Twitter account. “This race is an opportunity for a healthy exchange of ideas about how best to serve British Columbians, and I look forward to that debate.”

But the debate could be deeply divisive, given Appadurai’s vow to reset government priorities on several fronts.

She’s adamantly opposed to the NDP decision to proceed with development of the LNG Canada terminal in Kitimat and construction of the Coastal GasLink feeder pipeline through Northern B.C.

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Late last month, she attended a peace and unity summit, hosted by the office of the Wet’suwet’en Nation “in support of the land defenders who continue to uphold Wet’suwet’en law in the face of police violence and Coastal GasLink’s fracked gas pipeline.”

She posted a picture on social media of herself with pipeline opponent Chief Namoks, praising his “long-term vision” and effort to “protect the balance of life so that current and future generations can live well.”

She described the use of injunctions to clear protests along the pipeline route as “modern day expressions of old colonial laws, designed to allow industry to have its way.”

And she said she “witnessed the constant harassment and intimidation by the RCMP and the arbitrary arrest of a land defender.

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“The RCMP has essentially been deployed as private security,” wrote Appadurai. “This says it all about the priorities of the colonial state.”

From the platform she posted this week: “Our people-powered movement recognizes the sovereignty of the Indigenous nations that hold title and rights to the lands claimed by the Crown as British Columbia.

“We are committed to halting colonial violence by our government and co-creating a healthy future where Indigenous cultures, languages and families can thrive for all time.”

In anticipation of Appadurai’s entry, the NDP’s standing committee on the economy and the environment last week called on candidates for the leadership to sign a “climate first pledge.”

Those who sign would commit to making eight major changes within 60 days of being elected as party leader and hence premier of B.C.

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• Declare a state of climate emergency.

• Immediately stop all new oil and gas production, exploration and infrastructure and rapidly phase out all fossil fuel production, export and use by 2033.

• Ban old-growth logging and raw log exports.

• Fund a just transition for workers and communities impacted by the shift.

• Accelerate the transition to zero emission buildings.

• Expand, electrify public transit and make it free.

• Stop restocking all ocean-based fish farms.

• Respect Indigenous sovereignty.

Appadurai can be expected to sign the pledge.

Eby could not easily do so, as Green MLA Adam Olsen noted in welcoming Appadurai to the race.

“Forty-eight of the 57-member B.C. NDP caucus has endorsed David Eby, who said at the launch of his leadership campaign, ‘Really, I don’t see any radical shifts happening here for government.’” Olsen noted.

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“This is the caucus that she would have to work with.”

Appadurai casts herself as representative a movement of activists, younger British Columbians and others dissatisfied with the government.

“I have answered the call from a growing movement in this province to run for NDP leadership as a way to challenge the party status quo and to lay out a vision for what our province could be like,” she said.

“I have agreed to be the candidate and the spokesperson for the movement, but it is much bigger than me.”

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Her biography with the climate emergency unit says she is also a “singer, songwriter and music producer.” Eby, as I recall, used to sing in an alt rock band.

Perhaps the party can lighten the tone of the debates with a karaoke night.

Now that Appadurai has declared her intentions, she’ll need to come up with the NDP’s hefty entry fee. The party expects candidates to put up $15,000 by Oct. 4, a further $25,000 by Oct. 19.

Presuming she pays up, balloting starts in November and continues until the result is announced in Dec 3.

I doubt even she expects to win.

But she has succeeded in prolonging the transition to a new leader at a time when the province needs urgent action on a number of fronts.

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