David Eby is not the type of guy who backs away from a political fight or cowers at the idea of confrontation.
In fact, he wrote the book on such things. Literally.
Back in 2010, Eby wrote a training manual for “legal observers” at the Winter Olympics held that year in Vancouver.
The purpose was to ensure the Olympics did not become an event “where the homeless are displaced, free speech interfered with and citizen rights trampled,” the manual said.
The training manual encouraged observers to carry swim goggles or a scuba mask, an air-filter mask and “a damp bandana,” all to guard against police tear gas and pepper spray. It also recommended carrying a water bottle for “cleaning eyes or wounds.”
“Are you ready to join us on the front lines preserving rights and freedoms during the 2010 Olympics?” Eby asked in the manual.
Of course, that was back when Eby was the head of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association. He could be regularly found at the head of protest rallies as he challenged the powers of the police and the government.
But now that Eby is the attorney general and the guy in charge, he’s not as enthusiastic about those pesky protesters.
On Tuesday, Eby cancelled a town-hall meeting in his Vancouver-Point Grey riding after it became apparent protesters were planning to crash the event at the encouragement of the opposition Liberals.
In a Facebook posting, Eby postponed the meeting “until we can ensure we can hold it safely.”
The meeting was expected to focus on the NDP’s new real-estate taxes, including the new “school tax” on homes valued at more than $3 million.
The tax (which is not a school tax, as the money goes into general revenues of government) is unpopular among homeowners in Eby’s well-to-do riding.
So was the cancellation of this meeting really about “safety”? Hardly. A large portion of the protesters would have been senior citizens.
In fact, until now, the New Democrats appear to have enjoyed the political optics of this fight. The NDP’s base of supporters love taxes on the rich, and the Liberals are playing right along by siding with wealthy homeowners.
But I suspect Eby is worried about the local politics of this one, as the tax disproportionally hits voters in his own riding.
Now he has fallen short of the standard of accountability that he himself demanded back when he was B.C.’s most vocal political agitator.
“His own constituents are concerned and worried and he doesn’t want to meet with them,” said Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson.
“So he’s trying to isolate himself from voters.”
I suspect the protesters will be back, especially now that they’ve successfully rattled one of the NDP’s steadiest performers.