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Socialist running for BC NDP leadership

Erfan Rezaie

October 4, 2022
Socialist Worker’s Erfan Rezaie sat down with Anjali Appadurai, who is running against former attorney general David Eby, to become the leader of the BC NDP, and hence Premier of BC.
Anjali comes from an activist background, working on climate issues with different NGOs. She calls herself a democratic socialist, which she describes as “believing in the limits of wealth accumulation, with a strong social safety net, all within the ecological limits”, and she believes democracy can deliver that. 
Her Campaign
There is certainly a lot of excitement about Anjali’s campaign, with potentially thousands of new BC NDP members joining before the deadline in early September. According to Anjali, this likely includes disenfranchised NDP voters, like herself, climate conscious voters who don’t align with the Green party’s economic and social values, young people and legacy NDP members. Her popularity has led to a smear campaign against her from corporate lobbyists and some current MLAs.

Why She’s Running
Anjali first ran for the NDP in 2021, in the federal election in the Vancouver-Granville riding. This seat was formerly held by Jody Wilson-Raybould. She came to within 400 votes of winning that election, which she did not expect. She says “I did it not to win, but to advance a climate conscious agenda.”
I asked her whether she thinks it’s possible for even the premier of BC to make the necessary changes to a system that has given us climate chaos, extreme wealth inequality, and all the connected crises.  She responded, “I never paid much attention to who was in the seats of power, because my theory of change was that only social movements were capable of that, but now the context has changed. As the systems around us are unravelling, particularly with the time sensitive nature of climate change, there is an obligation to engage in power in all its forms and blur the lines between social movements and where each of us is best placed.”
Anjali also states that “the party system is not setup to deliver the sweeping changes we need, but I’m here to give social movements access to power, which is a much truer version of democracy than what we have. We need both the right people in the seats of power as well as the social movements, working together.” 
Her experience on the front line of social movements taught her that only organized groups can make transformative change. Her goal as leader of the BC NDP is to help return the party to its roots as a party of the working class, one that takes direction from social movements. She cited the Dave Barett government of the 1970’s as an example of where the party needs to return to. 
Would She Be Any Different?
Anjali would not be the first social activist to be elected to office, and in 2017 after seeing so many activist friends get elected to power with the NDP, the excitement quickly faded, as according to Anjali, “there’s something in the water, and something about the design of the system itself makes people less accountable.” She adds, “I don’t think any single person is immune to that, nor am I above that, but the only way to guard against that is to set up formalized structures that keep the doors open between the movements and government to create the checks and balances that can keep government accountable to social movements.”
Some examples she suggested of the structures that can keep government more accountable include “setting up a youth council with access to the premier’s office, providing more access to grassroots movements than corporate lobbyists, and ultimately have more people like herself enter government to help keep it accountable.” 
She also knows that the current NDP caucus isn’t welcoming her into this race, as they prefer their established candidate, David Eby. When I asked her about how she plans to gain their support, she says, that she knows the people in government genuinely believe they are doing good work, but “they come up against the limitations of the system and do their best anyway. They’re not inhabiting a reality in which their actions are able to meet the challenges of the time. They’re not surrounded by the right voices reminding them about the type of action that’s required. Instead, they’re surround by voices that equate incrementalism with progress, which is a poisonous pairing.”
“My job as leader is to believe in everyone’s best intentions, but also work to ignite people’s imaginations about what we can do if we create the conditions for it. Because I’m a movement candidate, I would bring the imagination of the movement, which is something the government is not usually exposed to. I’m not coming in thinking that I’m better or people here aren’t there for the right reasons, but to reorient who we are accountable to.” 
Climate Justice
For Anjali, her focus on climate is “about an overall redistributive approach”. For her, “we don’t get to a climate safe future without a significant redistributive project, in its core about the well being of everyone.” She goes on to say that “the first step is a jobs transition, and that consideration of working people goes hand-in-hand with our need to drive down emissions. To say otherwise is violence.”
She plans to go from the current extractive, endless growth-based neoliberal paradigm to a new one, that will involve large government investments.
According to her, all fossil fuel projects must end. Specifically, she stated that the federally owned “trans-mountain pipeline needs to be cancelled, but the first step is to have a public conversation about the true cost of that project”, as well as LNG Canada, the Coastal Gas-Link pipeline, Site C, and other projects that have locked us in.  
She thinks that if the truth is laid bare about these projects, and at the same time, the well-being of people is prioritized by government, there will be a push toward deeper public investment in that jobs transition, and understanding these projects can and must come to an end. 
She makes the connection between that public investment to all the other systems that prioritize human wellness, such as housing, health care, education, as well as our energy systems.
When I pressed her on what she would do differently than the John Horgan government, which has repeatedly sent the RCMP to attack land defenders on Wet’suwet’en territory, she reiterated that her government would proactively takeover the just transition, communicating the truth to the public and providing the necessary investment, rather than letting the fossil fuel industry drive the decisions. 
Her campaign plans to reveal specific policies on health care, climate and energy, taxation, and more in the coming weeks, but she was able to speak to a few proposals.
Given the record profits in private industry during the pandemic and the so called “inflation” working people are suffering from, Anjali would like to see a “windfall tax from those pandemic profits.”
She also has ideas for projects, that require far less investment than we currently spend. One such example is a “heat pump program, that could re-train workers in a fairly short-term manner, and at the same time help build communities and industries across the province, while helping reduce emissions.”  
Earlier that day, Anjali submitted her application to officially enter the BC NDP leadership race. It remains to be seen if the party will authorize her to run or not, but regardless, she is already giving voice to the social movements of this province.  
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