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Delivering Community Power CUPW 2022-2023

Anjali Appadurai in her own words

The BC NDP disqualified Appadurai from its leadership race, making David Eby the uncontested premier. Read her response

Canadian Politics

Anjali Appadurai meets with supporters in Lakeside Park, Nelson, BC, August 30, 2022. Photo by Bill Metcalfe.

Below is a full transcript of Anjali Appadurai’s response to the BC NDP Chief Electoral Officer, Elizabeth Cull’s report on the Appadurai campaign. Cull’s report was the evidence used by the party executive council to disqualify Appadurai on October 19. It has been reported that the executive voted not to consider this response from Appadurai.


President of the Party, Table Officers of the BC NDP, and CEO of the 2022 BC NDP Leadership Election Campaign:

I wish I could start by sharing my shock at being called here to address an attempt to disqualify my candidacy, but unfortunately, I am unsurprised by this turn of events. This narrative of disqualification has been carefully cultivated online and in leaks to journalists for weeks, keeping my campaign in a state of crisis and distraction. That a recommendation of disqualification is finally happening is distressing and destructive to both my campaign and to our party’s future credibility with the voters of this province. But at this point, it is hardly a surprise.

I will start my remarks today by laying out the big picture of what I think my campaign means, and why it is being treated the way it is. I will go on to make a case that we have never been treated fairly by the party officials running the election, and I will offer a broad response to the many biased conclusions reached in the CEO’s report. With only 72 hours to prepare a response to this report, which has clearly been in the works for many weeks, even this process seems weighted in favour of a foregone conclusion. But it’s still my hope that you will all prove me wrong and reject the CEO’s recommendation.

Big picture

Let me start by saying something that might surprise you. There has indeed been an active third party in this race, and it is responsible for the staggering number of new members that we attracted in only 25 days. The third party with that transformative impact on my membership drive was the Government of British Columbia. Specifically, our NDP government’s series of fateful decisions on issues of deep concern to longtime NDP members: the green light for Site C, the forsaking of proportional representation, the subsidies and support for fracking and Christy Clark’s LNG pipe dream, the continued logging of old growth, and the failure to adequately invest in the public health care system now collapsing around us as the pandemic continues to rip through vulnerable communities.

That deep disappointment with the direction of the NDP government was the silent but effective recruiting partner that brought in the many thousands of British Columbians who flocked to my campaign. They want to see this government live up to the traditional values of the NDP—like getting corporate lobbyists out of the people’s house, standing up to large corporate interests on behalf of working class folks, and respecting Indigenous rights—not just when it’s convenient for industrial projects, but whenever protecting air, land, water and the health of people and planet are at stake.

Without this political energy and desire for change, we would never, ever be here today.
Because it was the politics of my campaign—not the process, personnel or tactics—that attracted all those new members.

That is the big picture. There is not a single alleged transgression in this 17-page report by the CEO that can otherwise explain the thousands of new members who are the real reason my candidacy is facing disqualification. Disqualification is a nuclear option, one that threatens to rip this party apart, discredit us in the eyes of the public, further weaken and demoralize our base, and severely damage our electoral chances in 2024.

A pattern of bias

Regardless of how ill-advised it is, this move to disqualify me is not an anomaly but the culmination of a pattern of treatment. From the very first communication my campaign received from the CEO, we were dismayed to discover that in place of a fair and neutral arbiter of our party democracy, we were instead facing bias. Consistent, relentless bias.

We were treated with suspicion and a pattern of hostility on a routine basis for the entire campaign, and never once did we feel that the race itself was a fair space in which to engage members on the crucial issues of our time.

Instead of an assumption of innocence, we were treated to a relentless assumption of guilt—despite our attempts to truthfully and without delay answer every aggressive question and accusation that poured in. We saw clearly, as early as August, that the CEO had already shown a pattern of pre-judgement and a predisposition for the very outcome that we are facing today.

What you’re reading and hearing today from the CEO is not the conclusion of an investigation, but an investigation to support a predetermined conclusion.

Communication between the CEO and my campaign’s financial agent began with invalidation and blatant disregard of the CEO’s obligation—and the common courtesy—to reliably acknowledge my campaign’s correspondence and inquiries. Unfortunately, this pattern continued and worsened over the course of the campaign. Repeatedly, the CEO’s correspondence showed hostility, an unwillingness to provide clarity, the imposition of arbitrary deadlines, and was delivered with accusatory language. To date, more than 15 questions that my campaign asked over the course of our correspondence remain unanswered. This blatant disregard was a constant feature of the CEO’s treatment of my campaign, indicating and confirming a pattern of bias from the very first email exchange until this day.

Beyond our communication, this pattern of bias is evident throughout the CEO’s report.
Perhaps the most telling is her repeated characterization of many new memberships as “fraudulent.” Not mistaken, or even improper. But “fraudulent.”

Just like with my campaign, the CEO imputes a motive to so many new members—guilty of fraud unless they can prove otherwise. And tragically, the party has played a role in this, by commissioning thousands of calls to new members, some as aggressive and hostile as the treatment we have received from the CEO. Whether they are called spot checks or investigations, as a party we’ve effectively sent a message to a whole wave of British Columbians that their motives are suspect and that the onus is on them to prove they’re not joining our party for devious and illegitimate reasons.

I believe my political offer of truly transformative climate action, an end to fossil fuel influence over government, and massive public investment and public ownership to deal with cascading crises, is the real reason so many answered our call and bought memberships.

We must be clear on this: there is absolutely nothing wrong—and it’s not a violation of the law or party rules—when someone joins our party from a rival party, hoping that under new leadership the party will embrace a more ambitious direction. There is equally nothing wrong with that person canceling their membership and joining another party, if our party doesn’t elect their preferred candidate or choose a new direction.

This is a normal and accepted feature of all leadership races, in every party and at every level of government. It is an exercise of the fundamental constitutional right to freedoms of expression, association and political activity. There is absolutely nothing fraudulent about people who do that. These are British Columbians who care about the future of our province and planet—not ghost names or invented identities, but real people, neighbours and community members, who want a better future and are engaging in politics at a time when the extreme right is rising and cynicism is rampant.

And the characterization of this common, legitimate practice in our politics as “fraudulent” reveals a deeply biased assumption about my campaign and the memberships it has attracted. The repeated and exclusive use of this term reveals a predisposition of the outcome of this process, and not an open mind—let alone a desire to grow our party and our movement.

The August 6 Zoom call: a movement meeting, not a third-party conspiracy

Let’s move on to the accusation that my campaign coordinated with Dogwood, a third party. The heart of the CEO’s case is the August 6 Zoom call. Without her biased presentation of this event, the case for disqualification falls apart.

When I look at that Zoom call—and I encourage you to do so, too—what I see is what I saw at the time: a public meeting to explore how much interest there was in a leadership bid by me. This is a very common first step in considering a leadership run. I invited people from my climate justice and progressive communities. The enthusiasm was palpable, and the people who came expressed their deep desire to see, not a coronation in the BC NDP, but a healthy and democratic contest of ideas.

This meeting was all spontaneous. It was not pre-scripted. We didn’t know what anyone was going to say until they said it. The essential elements of a campaign—staff, structure, announcement of intent to run—none of that was in place yet. I didn’t formalize my campaign, develop the structure and start hiring my staff until the days that followed the Zoom call.

The CEO doesn’t see it that way, and I think it’s evidence not only of bias, but of a fundamental inability to understand social movements and how they work. The August 6 meeting was a gathering of climate activists from many, many groups. I made crystal clear from the outset that I see myself as a spokesperson and representative of that movement. Given this, it simply stands to reason that I would make my decision to run only if there was sufficient interest from that movement.

The CEO seems unwilling or unable to understand this dynamic of movement organizing, and presents it as suspect—as evidence of collusion with third parties. But the Zoom call is, in fact, a document of a candidacy giving expression to a movement—the very process by which both the CCF and the NDP were born.

Of course, I relied on support from various groups—I am a movement candidate. My opponent has done the same with the efforts of unions and others. And yes, in the Zoom meeting, I was aware of the efforts of various social movement forces and organizations. But that absolutely does not constitute collusion or coordination. In fact, there was no joint strategizing or planning in the call whatsoever.

The CEO equates me being “aware” of the efforts of these other groups as equivalent to collusion. It is categorically not the same thing. And there could be no coordination before or on the Zoom call of August 6, because before that point there had been no public or private announcement of my campaign. You can watch its beginning in real time in that Zoom call. It was captured live.

By the end of the meeting, I was convinced that the interest was there for a leadership campaign. That night, at the end of that meeting, I committed to running, and that’s when the campaign kicked off.

So yes, we did our best to organize the meeting to capture whatever momentum it generated. Yes, I opened a bank account and set up a Gmail address to take donations and mobilize volunteers if I decided to go forward. That’s just good old-fashioned organizing. It’s not plotting or scheming or evidence of a pre-existing campaign. The fact that the folks in the meeting were challenged to sign up thousands of new members in the subsequent 36 hours was exactly the same thing: good old-fashioned organizing, building on the momentum in the meeting. It was also a bit of bravado - throwing out a number that sounds high but may just be achievable. Not a shadowy plan hatched in advance, but a standard movement call to action. The fact that the CEO sees it as evidence of collusion is yet another example of her pre-judgement, and a telling example of how foreign social movement organizing must be to her.

We didn’t plan and coordinate that meeting with Dogwood or any other group—we invited them. We wanted to explore what a variety of folks from different groups and movements thought of a leadership run. And it was an exciting response, one that convinced me that there would be a movement behind me if I stepped into the role of candidate.

What I see when I re-watch that Zoom call is a spontaneous expression of grassroots democratic socialist organizing. What the CEO had to see, in order to justify a narrative leading to disqualification, is a conspiracy caught on tape.

Subsequently, and from the moment we decided to launch, recruiting paid staff and building the campaign (i.e. at the end of the meeting) we had no conversations with Dogwood about their activities.

We were very, very careful not to have any Dogwood staff or other third party decision-makers in strategic or decision-making roles on the campaign. We did not, at any time, have inside information about how Dogwood was planning and rolling out its campaign. We read the rules and we did our utmost to follow them.

Yes, two Dogwood staff members volunteered in those first chaotic weeks. Yes, one of them wrote e-blasts from the campaign. These volunteer contributions are not evidence of coordination with or decision-making by a third party. The CEO’s assertion that these circumstantial connections are de facto proof of a plot and a sinister attempt to subvert party democracy are, yet again, proof only of her bias and pre-judgement towards our campaign.

If you look carefully at the CEO’s so-called proof of coordination, it is all highly circumstantial. The mere presence of Dogwood members as volunteers in any campaign activities is taken as proof of conspiracy.

I reiterate: we were very careful not to engage in collusion or coordination with Dogwood. We didn’t know what they were doing and we didn’t tell them what we were doing.

Implications of an exclusionary standard of membership for the party

Just imagine for a moment what leadership campaigns would look like in our party if this standard of guilt by association were applied to union members. Can you imagine, that of the various unions that endorsed Dave Eby, there might be one or two members who are volunteering for his campaign in their time off? And that they might even be writing emails to supporters? All while the organization they are a member of—their union—has encouraged its membership to support Dave Eby for leader? Is this in your mind grounds for disqualification of Dave Eby?

It cannot be so. The standard of evidence to prove that a campaign has used, directed, and coordinated the resources of a third party organization must be higher than the mere presence of volunteers in a campaign. But the CEO didn’t watch the Zoom meeting with an open mind—if she had, she might have been inspired! Instead, she seems to have watched it with a clear agenda to find any desperate and circumstantial evidence to disqualify my candidacy. I think when unbiased members of the public and the party watch that Zoom call, they will see an open and exciting encounter among like-minded people who are coming together to call for change and renewal.

Final proof of bias: the rules kept changing

But the final proof that this conclusion was long pre-decided, is that the leadership rules kept changing. No fewer than three times, we were issued “bulletins” that claimed to clarify and interpret the rules of the contest.

I understand that this in itself is in accordance with the Regulations Part I.B., where it clearly states that “The Campaign Regulations may be amended by the CEO during the Leadership Election Campaign… ” But the way the CEO wrote and enforced those new rules was prejudicial. She created new standards that retroactively created the impression of wrongdoing on our campaign.

And this was clearly the intent of the changes. CEO Bulletin #1 issued on August 31 added new language dealing with membership sign-ups, protection of privacy, and third party collaboration and contributions and expanded the definition of coordination.

The new rules read, in part:

Third Party Collaboration/Contributions
Leadership candidates are expected to conduct their campaigns independent of third party campaigns in order to comply with both the spirit and the letter of the BC Election Act. Elections BC interprets this independence requirement to mean that individuals associated with candidates and third party campaigns must not do the following:
● Share strategies and information
● Share campaign material
● Provide or receive direction or suggestions
● Distribute each other’s material
● Be a director, principal officer, or decision-maker for both entities
● Reference political affiliation in any form of third party communication
● Volunteer for more than a single third party campaign or reference/consider any platform, strategies or directions to or from a candidate’s campaign with which they are associated


This “clarification” introduced a whole new level of detail to the rules that my campaign had been carefully following up to that point. Nonetheless, we immediately took action to comply with the new rules.

As these rules had not existed the day before, there was no way the campaign could be expected to operate by them until they were put in place. But we were subsequently held to account for them for the entire campaign period—going back to the August 6 Zoom call itself.

So the CEO wrote new rules and issued them on August 31, and then went back and investigated us for things that happened weeks before, and found that we had broken rules around third parties that didn’t even exist at the time of the events in question.

Given the pattern of hostility and bias from the CEO, there is no other plausible explanation other than that the rules were written to lay the ground for the disqualification process now underway.

Conclusion

In conclusion, let’s zoom back out. Here’s what I believe is the story of this campaign, one widely shared by many members of the public and of our party.

The party let the membership drop to a dangerously low level, and despite entreaties from some party elders to boost the membership in advance of a potential leadership race, the party and the frontrunner candidate were caught off guard by an outbreak of grassroots democracy and an avalanche of new and returning members. I don’t know exactly how many. Maybe some of you have seen the membership numbers. If so, you probably know that the party faces a terribly difficult situation of its own making. If the race goes through to its democratic conclusion—if we let the members, our party’s life blood, actually choose our next leader as the party is required to do if it is to remain a democratic institution—there is a strong chance, perhaps a strong probability, that they will choose a change of direction. That they will choose me.

And so an absurd narrative was launched about a Green Party “hostile takeover,” in order to justify an aggressive attempt to define membership qualification in the most extreme and exclusionary way, excluding the very people we need to attract: those who have lost their enthusiasm for our party, or those that could be drawn to us with a different political offer.

Many of those excited new members were subject to aggressive loyalty tests and intimidation, and they were publicly characterized as frauds by the supposedly neutral overseer of party democracy. Others were asked by a friendly phone canvasser a series of questions that sounded to many like a polite, Canadian McCarthyite interrogation about their political associations in the past.

I believe that when it became clear that the number of my supporters was just too high to disqualify a sufficient number of new sign-ups, the decision was made to disqualify just one member instead: me.

Party president and table officers, I know this has been a bruising race, and the party’s reputation is not in good shape. So I implore you: please don’t double down by choosing the nuclear option. Don’t do this. Don’t disqualify my candidacy and my campaign. Don’t make the “Democratic” in NDP the object of mockery by the public. Don’t give our opponents this cudgel to batter us with from now until 2024.

Don’t subject yourselves and the provincial executive to the inevitable smears that the next premier of BC was chosen in shadowy back rooms, not in the sunlight of democracy.

Don’t saddle Dave Eby with a tainted administration, forced to defend the undemocratic way he came to power for the next two years, and into the next election. But most importantly: don’t tear this party apart. Trust the members and let the contest of ideas proceed. Let democracy prevail in the New Democratic Party.

I urge you to reject this biased finding, set aside the recommendation for disqualification, and put your position before provincial executive on Wednesday October 19. And let the members of the BC NDP choose our next leader.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

This statement was issued by Anjali Appadurai. Reprinted with permission.

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