B.C. Green MLAs Adam Olsen, Andrew Weaver and Sonia Furstenau in the B.C. legislature, November 2017. (Hansard TV)

B.C. VIEWS: 2017 is the year of the B.C. Green Party

Andrew Weaver’s shifting priorities shape politics for 2018

In addition to this year-end column on the rise of the B.C. Green Party, Black Press legislative columnist Tom Fletcher took a ride with Green leader Andrew Weaver in his electric car, to talk about climate change and the environment. Warning, the video contains singing and the ending may surprise you.

One of my vivid memories from 2017 was walking to work the morning after the B.C. NDP and Green Party formalized their minority government deal.

Legislature security patiently watched a woman wearing a green rain jacket and bike helmet shinny up one of the flagpoles and unfurl a black banner with white lettering.

“People Power: 1

Kinder Morgan: 0

Change is Coming

Greenpeace”

A second Greenpeace employee, crouched on the lawn below, hit “play” on a portable stereo as TV cameras rolled. The opening notes of Gary Wright’s 1975 pop hit Dream Weaver filled the air, a reference to B.C.’s new political star, B.C. Green Party leader Andrew Weaver.

Events had moved quickly since the morning of Wednesday, May 10, when B.C. residents awoke to an election result that would remain in limbo for seven weeks. Weaver was in high demand that day, fielding calls including the BBC and European media about the first real Green Party breakthrough in North America.

Weaver addressed his biggest-ever media scrum in the legislature rose garden that morning, taking questions on what he intended to do with a three-seat balance of power. He was emphatic, as he had been through the campaign. Job one was cleaning up the “wild west” of unregulated B.C. political donations.

By Sunday, May 14, Weaver had a new top priority. Appearing on the CTV program Question Period, he declared that “number one” on his list of “deal breakers” in talks with the 43-seat B.C. Liberals and the 41-seat B.C. NDP was official party status, which at that time required four seats.

Both larger parties must have agreed quickly, because Weaver soon sacked his press secretary and hired three people, including a chief of staff and communications director, anticipating the taxpayer-funded budget that comes with official party status.

With the vital recount dragging on in Courtenay-Comox to determine if then-premier Christy Clark could retain a bare majority, another Green top priority emerged – proportional representation. The final count was in and the B.C. Greens had taken almost 17 per cent of the popular vote. It was concentrated in urban areas, but under a new formula it could triple the number of Green seats.

Fast-forward to mid-December, where Weaver held court in his basement office. I asked him if he had anything to do with the NDP rules for a referendum on a new voting system, a simple majority, no minimum turnout and government support to stack the deck in favour of the Green-NDP urban base.

Not at all, Weaver said. Sure, proportional representation is a founding principle of the Greens, but it’s “inside baseball” and the public doesn’t much care. Keith Baldrey of Global TV then reminded Weaver that he had declared changing the voting system to be his top priority before the crucial stage of talks with the NDP.

It was important for the negotiations, Weaver replied, but not something voters were talking about on doorsteps. Then he went into one of his long dissertations about how one voice-one vote is “the foundation of democracy,” and proportional representation will work even better for rural B.C., because a multi-member riding that covers much of the north will have MLAs from all parties.

He wanted to impose the new system without a vote, but now the fall 2018 referendum looks like a sure thing, he’d rather talk about important issues, like his wildly unaffordable child care plan.

If I may suggest one New Year’s resolution for B.C. voters, it is to keep an eye on this guy.

Tom Fletcher is B.C. legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. Email: tfletcher@blackpress.ca


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