Premier David Eby used a national platform today to stress the importance of labour and minority rights while warning off populism.
“For Canadians, for people across the country, having an NDP government means establishing a firewall against the US-style culture war, divisive, awful, racist, discriminatory, homophobic rhetoric nonsense that people are trying so hard to bring into this country,” Eby said Friday (Oct. 13) in a speech to federal New Democratic Party convention delegates meeting in Hamilton, Ontario.
With federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh in the audience, Eby spoke almost two years to the day before the last possible date for the next federal election (Oct. 25, 2025) and almost one year to the day before the last possible date for the next provincial election (Oct. 19, 2024).
With those elections on the horizon, Eby used his speech to praise the accomplishments of the federal NDP, which has extracted several policies through its supply-and-confidence agreement with the federal Liberal minority government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Eby also used his speech to tout various policies passed since provincial New Democrats gained power in 2017 after what he called “16 years in the wilderness.”
Eby cited the elimination of Medical Service Plan premiums, changes in auto insurance and tax relief for middle-income families as accomplishments.
More broadly, he tried to a draw a contrast to right-of-centre governments, accusing them of relying on the free market and deregulation to solve social problems.
“Having an NDP government means that a province that was used to cutting, used to seeing impacts on all the services that (people) needed…is building,” Eby said. “We are building schools, we are building hospitals across the province, we are building bridges, public transit, roads, affordable homes, everywhere in British Columbia.”
Born in Ontario himself, Eby took several digs at past and present Conservative governments in that province, including Mike Harris and his controversial Common Sense revolution and current Premier Doug Ford.
He praised the efforts of New Democrats in Ontario to help force Ford to reverse his decision to open up Ontario’s Greenbelt to private developers and criticized Ford’s record on labour relations.
“Having an NDP government in power means having a government that will never, ever use the notwithstanding clause (in Canadian constitution) to attack the rights of workers,” Eby said, speaking in Hamilton, Ont.
Eby was referring to events in 2022, when Ontario’s provincial government under Ford passed legislation that imposed a contract on 55,000 CUPE education workers and banned them from striking. Workers struck anyway and Ford’s government later repealed the bill following negotiations caused in part by the threat of a general strike.
“Never, never,” Eby added to applause.
Eby also used the occasion to repeat earlier promises to protect sexual minorities.
“Having an NDP government means having a government that will never, ever use the notwithstanding clause to attack the most vulnerable kids in our schools,” he said.
Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe of the conservative Saskatchewan Party has said his government would use the notwithstanding clause to pass legislation overriding a ruling around legislation requiring students under 16 to get parental consent to change their names or pronouns.
Critics of Moe see legislation tabled Oct. 10 as an attack on transgender rights, while supporters have framed it as an effort to protect parental rights.
Eby’s reference to Saskatchewan’s use of the notwithstanding clause builds on comments, which he had made in the provincial legislature, where he defended sexual orientation and gender identity education from its critics outside and the inside the legislature, chief among them the Conservative Party of BC.
While Eby implicitly attacked his provincial counterparts in Ontario and Saskatchewan for policies antithetical to the New Democrat base, he highlighted the election of New Democrat Wab Kinew, who will be sworn-in as Manitoba’s new premier next week. Kinew is also Canada’s first First Nations premier.
Kinew’s election means that Eby is no longer the only New Democratic premier in Canada.
“When all the premiers get together at the Council of Federation, it’s a bit lonely, but not any longer,” he said. “I want to send a special thank you to the Manitoba delegates — thank you for sending me a friend,” he added.