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Cash and dad jokes: Campaigning in full swing ahead of B.C. fall election

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At a press conference announcing “supports for drivers,” premier David Eby gave another sign of his strategies in courting British Columbia’s voters ahead of this fall’s provincial election.

Reporters who attended the event at a Victoria strip mall found a podium with a large vanity license plate reading “Beautiful 2024 Rebate” and watched as the AC/DC song “Back in Black” played as Eby walked up to the microphone with a large grin.

“Some people say car insurance is boring, but I say it's rock and roll,” he quipped, going on to make several song references to the band. “There's no question that drivers in B.C. renewing their insurance are on the ‘Highway to Hell’ under (BC United leader) Kevin Falcon and (BC Conservative leader) John Rustad, but now ICBC is ‘Back in the Black’ and drivers will be ‘Thunderstruck’ by the announcement today.”

The puns are the latest example of dad jokes and comments Eby has made that may seem like ordinary displays of personal humour, but are likely part of a strategy to amp up the premier’s likeability.

“He does have a tendency to sound a bit like a university law professor when he talks about policy, so this is an attempt to, I think, connect with voters on a more personal level,” said Hamish Telford, an associate professor of political science at the University of the Fraser Valley. “He really is trying to style himself as that ‘premier dad.’”

Eby’s predecessor, John Horgan, had a similar folksy manner when speaking publicly that resonated with many voters, and other provincial leaders have taken similar approaches to their personal brand and public personae.

The BC NDP has been focusing on kitchen table politics, especially since Eby took the helm, particularly on housing and affordability, as they struggle to manage issues that are endemic throughout Canada and the U.S.

The $110 ICBC rebate and freeze on basic car insurance rates Eby was there to announce came under immediate fire by the opposition parties in the legislature, who are keen to build more momentum against the NDP now that they’ve been scoring political points and a roll-back on drug decriminalization.

“I think we can all recognize that this (rebate) is a fairly flagrant attempt to change the channel and try to get people to ignore the nightmarish legislative session the NDP have been going through,” Kevin Falcon told reporters at the legislature later that day.

That may very well be a factor, but even Eby pointed out that ICBC’s occasional surplus revenues have been used as by other political parties in past years, and that the end of the Crown corporation’s fiscal year is the reason for the timing – but of course, with all things political, there are likely many layers.

“This is manipulating ICBC for political purposes, which is I think’s inappropriate, whichever party is doing it,” said Telford. “I'm not sure that complaint, though, lands with voters who would just prefer to have the $110 back in their pockets.”

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