In shoes from his father, new B.C. Premier David Eby is off and running

VANCOUVER — British Columbia's new Premier David Eby looked down at his shiny shoes and explained to the audience at his swearing-in ceremony that they were a tribute to his father.

But the fancy footwear could just as easily symbolize how Eby has decided to hit the ground running.

Eby, sworn in Friday as B.C.'s 37th premier, says his first days in office will see the launch of NDP government plans to tackle the province's difficult ongoing issues of public safety and affordable housing.

He also immediately announced a $100 cost-of-living credit on residents' electricity bills and established an affordability credit for low- and middle-income residents.

A plan to improve public safety in B.C., amid concerns about random crime, will be announced Sunday, while legislation to improve affordable housing is set to be introduced in the legislature Monday, he said.

It will likely take between 18 months and two years for the government to deliver its priorities on health care, public safety, affordable housing and a clean, sustainable economy, but people will see the work starting immediately, said Eby, 46.

The new premier is a former lawyer for the Pivot Legal Society and executive director of the BC Civil Liberties Association. On his way to becoming housing minister and attorney general, he made his name as a political giant killer for toppling former premier Christy Clark in the riding of Vancouver-Point Grey.

Eby's installation took place at the Musqueam Community Centre in Vancouver, the first-ever swearing-in of a premier hosted by a First Nation in B.C.

He was led in by First Nations drums, and before being sworn in by Lt.-Gov. Janet Austin, he took part in a Musqueam blanketing ceremony. He was told to use it as a warm embrace from the community when he’s feeling frustrated or sad.

"What I want to deliver, what I want our team to deliver over the next 18 months to two years for British Columbians are real, concrete things that they can see, that they can touch, that show them the direction we're going," he said at a news conference after the ceremonies.

"We're not going to solve all of these huge challenges — most of these huge challenges are global — overnight," Eby said. "It's going to take working together."

He said the BC Affordability Credit for low- and middle-income residents will provide up to $164 for adults and $41 for children, and will be provided via the Canada Revenue Agency, appearing in people's bank accounts in January.

The one-time electricity credit will meanwhile be applied automatically to residents' BC Hydro bills this fall. Commercial customers will receive a one-time bill credit averaging $500.

Eby said Crown-owned BC Hydro has had a good year and is able to afford the credit due to market conditions.

He replaces fellow New Democrat John Horgan, who announced last June he was leaving office due to health concerns. Horgan attended Friday's events, where he received a standing ovation and delivered his last speech as premier.

Eby said while B.C. is a wonderful place to call home, people are feeling uncertain about their futures and are worried about their families.

“I’m proud of the work done by John Horgan and our government to put people first. And there’s so much more to do. I’m ready to get to work with my team to deliver results that people will be able to see and feel in their lives and in their communities.”

Musqueam Chief Wayne Sparrow welcomed the crowd gathered for the event, and thanked Eby’s wife, Dr. Cailey Lynch, and his two children, acknowledging that their father would be taken away to work on behalf of the province.

Joy MacPhail, the chair of the BC Ferries board and a former NDP cabinet minister, said that Eby is considerate, measured and open to innovative ideas. He was fearless when it came to bold action and was the person you wanted on your side, she said.

“I’m confident that David has what it takes to deliver the results that make this province better for every single one of us.”

Horgan told the crowd he never thought he would see the day that a B.C. New Democrat premier would be passing the baton to another New Democrat premier.

Horgan said when he became leader of the party, the first thing he did was turn to the tallest person he could find and pile work on his shoulders. Eby is six-foot-seven.

He said he piled even more work on Eby when the New Democrats took power.

“On this day, on the 18th of November, I proudly and unreservedly turn to the tallest guy in the room and say, congratulations Premier Eby, it’s going to be a great ride, we’ve done much, we have more to do.”

After taking the oaths of office, Eby singled out Horgan, praising him for his record, including winning a majority government in 2020.

"I'm not as tall as I look, because I'm standing on the shoulders of John Horgan."

Eby also thanked his wife, young son and daughter for their support, saying he was trying not to look at where they were sitting to help him hold back his tears.

He thanked his mother and father and told the story of his shoes.

The gleaming black shoes were in honour of his father, who purchased them for Eby years ago when he started working as a "baby lawyer" in Vancouver.

"It was key for my dad that I have court shoes," said Eby. "If I was going to be a lawyer, I needed good court shoes. For my dad that meant apparently patent leather tuxedo shoes."

The shoes, Eby said, were a way for his father to be with him on important days, and a reminder of values he had learned.

Eby's son, Ezra, had noted that they looked like a "soldier's shoes."

"Maybe that's right," said the new premier. "We've got to fight every day."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 18, 2022.

Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press