It took a 13-hour moonlit road trip for Anjali Appadurai to decide to run for B.C. premier.
The 32-year-old climate justice activist was returning home to Vancouver after a few days of meeting with Indigenous leaders and activists on Wet'suwet'en territory in northern B.C., and her phone was ablaze. Word had spread that she was thinking about a run for the premiership. Dozens of friends and allies from across the province — youth advocates, Indigenous leaders, disillusioned NDP members and others — were phoning to convince her to run.
"In my mind, I wasn't going to do it. But seeing the hope that was ignited by the possibility of me running was really, really powerful," she said in an interview with Canada's National Observer before formally launching her campaign Monday. "I realized that even if I don't want to do this, even if it's going to be really hard, I needed to step up and answer the call."
Her decision has transformed the election of a replacement for current B.C. Premier John Horgan from a sleepy, single-candidate run into a "divisive" race poised to focus on climate change and economic inequality.
Appadurai has repeatedly been in the spotlight for her climate activism, starting with a blistering speech to delegates at the 2011 United Nations climate conference. She has since worked for West Coast Environmental Law, Sierra Club BC and the Climate Emergency Unit. She was also an NDP candidate in the 2021 federal election for the Vancouver Granville riding, losing by only about 400 votes — one of the country's tightest races.
Her opponent in the leadership race, former B.C. attorney general and housing minister David Eby, is running on a platform that promises to maintain the B.C. NDP's current approach of incremental change on issues like climate change and the housing crisis. While that consistency has earned Eby the backing of most current NDP MLAs and the NDP brass, Appadurai said that for many B.C. residents, the approach falls flat.
She is promising a more radical platform where tackling climate change and prioritizing the public good over private interests would be the organizing framework for B.C.'s economic and social policies. It's an approach she believes can tackle the province's biggest challenges — climate change, the housing and drug crises, or systemic racism, for instance — and ensure B.C. residents have the foundation for a "good life," she said.
Despite climate change playing a key role in her platform, she emphasized that she is looking to do more than reduce carbon emissions or implement more stringent environmental policies. Her goal is to create a government that redistributes power and money from corporations and private interests towards key public services.
Her decision to run against Eby has drawn criticism. Some party members, fellow activists and pundits have called her campaign both "audacious" and "unwinnable," citing her lack of political experience and Eby's institutional support.
"In my mind, I wasn't going to do it. But seeing the hope that was ignited by the possibility of me running was really, really powerful," Anjali Appadurai said in an interview with Canada's National Observer before formally launching her campaign.
Eby welcomed Appadurai to the race in a statement, saying the "race is an opportunity for a healthy exchange of ideas and a chance for (NDP) members to have their voices heard through the electoral process."
They're all valid critiques, she said, but believes she has the ability to rally together experts from different backgrounds and fields in developing more radical and transformative policies.
"It's divisive because we're doing something that seems crazy and audacious and incredibly inconvenient to the order of things," she said. "(But) in order to face the climate emergency, it is required to go into emergency mode — and that's an unpleasant place to be."