B.C. politics was jolted from its summer slumber this week when 32-year-old Anjali Appadurai launched her campaign to become leader of the BC NDP. This fall, a few thousand votes cast by NDP members could see her upend B.C.’s political establishment for good as the province’s next premier.

Anjali is challenging former Attorney General David Eby, who until now was the only candidate in the race. By positioning himself as the next John Horgan, promising “no radical changes” under his leadership, Eby has won the seal of approval from party brass and most NDP MLAs.

But for those who have watched in frustration as one mega-project after another blasted through rivers and forests, as B.C. flooded and burned, as Indigenous people were arrested at gunpoint for defending their land, as friends and family lost jobs and hope, as homelessness soared alongside corporate profits, Eby’s commitment to ‘more of the same’ seems utterly tone-deaf.

Anjali’s campaign offers an alternative to these British Columbians – including the large group of disillusioned BC NDP members who have abandoned the party over the past five years.

She promises transformational change that flips the current government’s “upside down” priorities, and returns the party to its core values of protecting the public good and taking care of people. As premier, her priorities would include emergency-level climate action, housing affordability, community care and ending colonial violence toward Indigenous people.

Who is Anjali Appadurai?

Anjali’s family moved to B.C. from Tamil Nadu in southern India when she was six. In high school, she worked with classmates on anti-war and migrant rights campaigns. At university, she gave a blistering speech on behalf of the youth delegation to the 2011 UN climate conference that went viral overnight. Since then, alongside continued global advocacy at the UN, she has worked as a climate campaigner with West Coast Environmental Law, Sierra Club BC and the Climate Emergency Unit.

Last year, Anjali ran as the NDP candidate for Vancouver-Granville in the federal election, losing by only a handful of votes. In six weeks, she went from political outsider to star candidate as her campaign attracted national attention with its momentum and powerful organizing machine. Volunteers flooded in, drawn by a candidate with a bold vision who told the truth and was clearly aligned with social movements rather than the professional political class.

Anjali says she has always sought to “be used for the right thing at the right time.” Her decision to run was a direct response to calls from hundreds of youth, climate advocates, Indigenous leaders and others who saw in Anjali someone they could trust to represent their needs and values at this critical moment. In a video launching her campaign, Anjali said: “I’ve answered the call of a movement. I’ve agreed to be the candidate and spokesperson. But this campaign belongs to you.”

A long shot or a real shot?

Some political pundits were quick to portray Anjali’s bid for leader as a long shot. A young, racialized woman from well outside the NDP establishment challenging the party’s anointed heir to John Horgan does look like a David vs. Goliath battle. But Anjali’s status as an insurgent candidate – think AOC and the Squad in American politics – could also be exactly what sets her up to win.

Membership in the BC NDP dwindled from 20,000 to 11,000 under Horgan’s leadership. There’s no guarantee that those who remain will vote for David Eby, if they have an alternative. And the potential pool of people – including ex-members – who could be inspired by Anjali’s vision to join the party dwarfs the current membership.

New party members could flood in from untapped constituencies like youth, climate activists drawn in by Anjali’s record of committed organizing, and third parties like Dogwood signing up their supporters. Combine this with party activists working to win over disillusioned current and former members, and a path to victory looks entirely possible.

The people-powered momentum on display in Anjali’s Vancouver-Granville campaign already appears to be in full swing: she raised the full $40,000 entry fee in one night at her supporter kick-off meeting.

A high stakes race

From the avalanche of media interest in Anjali’s campaign launch, it’s clear that climate, Indigenous rights and other issues she prioritizes will become front and centre in the leadership race. Now that David Eby must campaign rather than be acclaimed, both candidates will be forced to articulate and defend their positions on issues like fossil fuel expansion and criminalization of Indigenous land defenders.

Whoever wins this race will become the premier of B.C. for at least two years, at a critical moment in the history of this province and the world.

After years of the centralization of power in the premier’s office, the stakes could not be higher. Organizing to elect climate champion MLAs won’t get us very far if they can’t speak the truth or vote with their conscience, and if the party grassroots continues to be muzzled by the party leadership.

It matters who sits in the premier’s chair, which is why Dogwood is encouraging our supporters to sign up as party members to have their say. This is not an endorsement of the BC NDP, but a recognition of the opportunity for a one-time vote to play an outsized role in how decisions about our province get made – and to choose the premier that MLAs from all parties will have to work with.

Help elect a premier for the climate emergency

If you’re inspired by this once-in-a-generation opportunity, sign up now to help pick the next premier. You need to sign up or renew your membership by September 4 to be able to vote when the election period begins in November. The new leader will be announced in December.

Young people 12 and over are able to join the party, and permanent residents as well as citizens are eligible too. Membership costs $10, but youth and low-income people can have this reduced to $1.

For those who support political parties other than the BC NDP but still want to have a say in this race, you could choose to pause your membership and return after you cast your vote. It’s also worth noting that parties don’t share membership lists with one another and there is no penalty for an overlap in your membership as you switch back and forth between parties.

Every new member who signs up increases the pressure on both candidates to make stronger commitments – and ups the chances of a climate champion taking over the premier’s office this fall.

Please sign up now, tell your friends and family, and if you’re ready to do more, join one of our phone banks to help make sure as many Dogwood supporters as possible know about this opportunity for transformative change.

The countdown is on – let’s go make history.