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Opinion: Ladies and gentlemen: Are you ready for Premier David Eby?

We aren’t quite entertaining yet the idea of Prime Minister Pierre Poilievre, but we need to accept the notion of Premier David Eby before long. He is on Coronation Street, BC NDP style.
British Columbians need to accept the notion of Premier David Eby before long, writes Kirk LaPointe.

We aren’t quite entertaining yet the idea of Prime Minister Pierre Poilievre, but we need to accept the notion of Premier David Eby before long.

He is on Coronation Street, BC NDP style.

For the time being, Eby is doing that demure, still-considering-it, have-to-talk-to-the-family thing before suddenly entering the race, pretending it was a close call even though there had been a militaristic organization long in place when the opportunity arose to succeed John Horgan.

Remember, Eby was ready to wrest the party leadership in 2017 if the NDP hadn’t formed a coalition with the Greens – one seat the other way, and he was in trample mode – so he is long prepared now.

Given he’s in, and Ravi Kahlon’s out, the odds are long on anyone other than Ryan Reynolds or the Sedin twins. The big question is whether anyone consequential will run against him.

But a couple of events in recent days serve as blemishes as he awaits the crown and hint troublingly of what kind of provincial leader he’d be.

To wit: Friday is commonly called “take out the trash” day by journalists because the mixture of lower public and media attention make it possible to get rid of news with a certain odour. Bad look? Bury it on Friday, the later the better. Last Friday, Eby went all-in and waited until most everyone had checked out for a sunny weekend to sweep aside the board of BC Housing.

This change of regime came after an Ernst & Young review of the provincial authority under Eby’s ministerial watch for the last two years (he is also attorney general) delivered what couldn’t have been a more miserable verdict of mismanagement.

Choose a function – administration, governance, strategic planning, program design, technology – and BC Housing had run amok. Documentation was shaky, approval standards were inconsistent, and the authority took undue risks with taxpayers’ money. Considering how it is a government priority, the place was kindergarten.

The government needs BC Housing’s success if it is to muster credibility in its ambitious $7 billion, 10-year subsidized housing plan. Eby thus dismissed the kids and brought in the grown-ups, a raft of ex-deputy ministers as board members to contend with the E&Y ee-yikes study.

It was Act 2 of the BC Housing containment strategy. Remember? Rather than step up to the podium, own the problem and stake his reputation in fixing it, Eby chose to post the report online June 30 as the Canada Day long weekend began.

It could be found on the ministry’s website under the eye-catching headline: “New report highlights BC Housing expansion, new board members announced.” The conversation that created that bovine manure headline must have been one for the ages.

The news release heralded positivity: “The findings identify opportunities to become more efficient and expand capacity within BC Housing to match organizational growth.”

By “more efficient,” I take it that means “finally functions,” and by “organization growth,” I take it that describes “before it become a sinkhole.”

Then this week, on another portfolio the minister was only too happy to repeatedly call a “dumpster fire” on someone else’s watch at the podium he evaded for the bad news on his watch (namely, the Insurance Corp. of British Columbia), the Supreme Court of British Columbia pronounced his plan as unconstitutional.

Not often does a lawyer get the opportunity to champion policy that the court finds an abrogation of constitutional rights, but here our next premier is.

The court smacked down the plan to cap the costs plaintiffs could recover for experts they employ in personal injury suits. These specialists are required to provide an evidence-based argument on the extent of injury, but the law Eby oversaw to reshape the ICBC business model – something I might add that has put money into everyone’s pockets in the last year, with no small crowing by the government – by capping at six per cent the damages won or the settlement for expenses and costs of expert evidence.

Justice Nathan Smith, in writing the judgment, was pretty clear on the motivation: “The thinly veiled purpose of this legislation is to improve the finances of ICBC by reducing the quantity of expert evidence in motor vehicle accident liability claims and to thus both reduce litigation costs and produce lower damage awards whether by way of settlement or at trial.”

This was the second time this provision had been tested. Strike two.

Eby has been strangely quiet all of a sudden, but it’s increasingly clear the ICBC legislation needs somewhat the same treatment of BC Housing, except it would be good if the minister would take the stage and say how.

The friendly face of Horgan isn’t Eby’s metier. He is an outstanding constituency (as opposed to constitutional) MLA who runs laps around any wannabe MLA for Point Grey, but running laps around the public as the provincial leader is a trait he’d be best to shed.

Otherwise many of us will be scheduling staff for late Friday. Ultimately in politics, you can run but you cannot hide.

Kirk LaPointe is publisher and editor-in-chief of Business in Vancouver and vice-president, editorial, of Glacier Media.