Vaughn Palmer: Liberals accuse Eby of abetting racism

Vancouver Sun - VICTORIA — Michael Lee, the B.C. Liberal MLA and leadership candidate, launched a personal attack on Attorney-General David Eby this week, accusing him of contributing to anti-Asian racism in B.C.

“The attorney general, during his years as Opposition housing critic, directly and indirectly contributed to encouraging anti-Asian sentiment in our province,” charged Lee, citing Eby’s actions during the housing crisis under the last B.C. Liberal government.

“B.C. was grappling with a hot housing market and there was a complex set of circumstances that was driving it,” said the Liberal MLA. “However, to score cheap political points, the NDP decided to fearmonger using foreign buyers as a scapegoat for all that ailed the housing market.”

Lee singled out Eby’s supporting role in a 2015 survey that found people with non-anglicized Chinese first names were responsible for 66 per cent of the housing purchases in three neighbourhoods on the west side of Vancouver. Eby later apologized for providing the documentation for the survey.

Lee: “When money laundering first started gaining media attention in B.C., the NDP wasted no time in tying it to the same foreign influence, and quickly, largely because of the purposeful narrative spun by the attorney general, Chinese money became synonymous with crime in our province and served to further fuel racist narratives about B.C.’s housing market.

“The NDP capitalized on an ugly sentiment that, unfortunately, was still held by some in B.C., and the NDP did so for their own political gain. They made it socially acceptable to complain about a group of people simply because of their country of origin.

“Using this kind of racially charged language, especially as elected representatives, is reckless and has real-world impacts that are playing out in front of us in the worst possible way.”
Lee levelled his accusations on Monday morning, two days before he formally launched his bid for the Liberal leadership.

He made the comments during the two-hour slot in the weekly house schedule set aside for motions from private members. The motion in question, introduced by Lee, said: “Be it resolved that this house stand against anti-Asian racism.”

The debate was linked to the recent report from the Bloomberg News agency that branded Vancouver “the anti-Asian hate crime capital of North America.” But the Liberals mainly seized the opening to go after Eby.

Richmond MLA Teresa Wat: “When I first learned about the past actions of the member (Eby), I was absolutely shocked and heartbroken because the member was so fixated on achieving a personal political objective, so determined to weave this dark narrative about our housing market being destroyed by dirty, foreign, Asian money.

“The member was willing to use whatever means necessary to achieve this goal. Along the way, he clearly lost sight of the very real harm this would do to the people we are sworn to serve.”

Kelowna MLA Ben Stewart, who is supporting Lee for the leadership: “The narratives he (Eby) and the NDP constructed, the connections they made, served to galvanize prejudicial and racist attitudes toward people of Asian descent, giving these views greater legitimacy in the public sphere.”

The targeted attack seemed to catch the government off guard. Several NDP MLAs spoke against racism during the debate, but none addressed the specifics regarding Eby.

Private member’s motions are supposed to be confined to policy issues and the standing orders of the legislature forbid members from making personal attacks on each other. Speaker Raj Chouhan underscored both rules in admonishing the Liberals for “unparliamentary” comments, after the fact.

Eby was not in the house when the Liberals attacked. But he was able to address the accusation later in the day, when Wat revisited the issue during debate on the budget for his ministry.

Eby confirmed again that he had “provided land title records for a number of properties on the West side of the city of Vancouver” to Andy Yan, the researcher who produced the study.

He also acknowledged his apology “for my involvement in that study,” which he first delivered six years ago and repeated this spring, during testimony to the government-ordered inquiry into money-laundering.
But he emphasized that he was not faulting Yan, now the director of the city program at SFU.

“I want to be really clear that I support Mr. Yan’s ability to do this work, to be fearless in doing it, to examine important questions,” said Eby, who is also minister responsible for housing.

Rather his apology was prompted by “my disappointment over how that study was covered by the news media.”
“I absolutely accept responsibility for failing to adequately understand how the study would be used, reported on in the media and have apologized for that,” Eby explained.

“I thought, mistakenly, that the study was interesting and that it dispelled a number of myths around how people were purchasing homes. There were a lot of rumours at the time. But obviously, my naiveté about believing that I could influence the perspective of the media led me to insufficiently, I think, set the context for it.”

Eby did not name the news organizations whose coverage of the Yan report disappointed him, perhaps not wanting to invite a push back from that quarter.

But having covered Eby through his eight years and counting in provincial politics, “naive” is the last word I would use to describe his calculating, self-serving relationship with the news media.


About Michael

Michael Lee is a BC Liberal Party leadership candidate and the MLA for Vancouver-Langara. Before entering politics, Michael was a prominent business lawyer in Vancouver, where he worked for 20 years with forestry, mining, energy, and technology companies across BC. He also has a strong record of community service for over 30 years, including with social service, educational, and children and youth organizations. A son of immigrants, Michael was born and raised in Vancouver. He and his wife Christina have three young adult children.


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