Greens "In It To Win" As Writ Drops

Here we are again. Four years ago Andrew Weaver made his leap from academia to politics, becoming Canada's first Green to occupy a seat in a provincial legislature.

Tomorrow, the writ drops on the last 28 days of the BC election campaign and Weaver, as leader of his party, is hoping to redraw the political landscape of BC in a greener hue.

The BC Greens have come a long way since I followed them in the election of 2013. After 30 years of being in the political wilderness, having Weaver as anchor in the legislature has allowed the party to build a higher profile here in BC, and develop a rigour and depth to its policy that was lacking before.

For a party of one, the BC Greens sure have been busy. Weaver finished the last legislative session with a flurry of private member bills: bills to enable car sharing, to bring in a right to roam the backcountry, to ban mandatory high heels in the workplace (that went viral).... He introduced 19 bills in total in the last session, one more than the entire 35-member NDP caucus, and far outstripped the Liberals with their paltry 9 bills.

As we enter the campaign period, BC Green candidates are contending in many ridings. Polls have the party with over 20% on Vancouver Island and Weaver’s personal popularity has surged past that of Premier Christy Clark.

How did the BC Greens get here? An unequivocal stance on many of the big environmental issues has not only reassured the party’s traditional constituency of voters, but it’s provided a solid foundation on which to build more detailed policy in areas where the party had been perceived to be lacking.

In the last few weeks, the BC Greens have had a series of detailed platform launches for education, agriculture and the economy. It plans to simplify the tax system, and to pilot a guaranteed minimum income plan.

Not surprisingly, given Weaver’s background as a climatologist, the climate plan is a bold one, including raising the provincial carbon tax to $70 by 2021 - beyond the federal timeline of $50 by 2022 that the BC NDP and BC Liberal parties are following.

Climate policy is one of the key areas of difference between the BC Greens and the other two parties. Weaver’s Greens want to speed the transition away from fossil fuels, opposing the Kinder Morgan oil pipeline expansion, stopping fracking, and halting US thermal coal exports through BC ports.

All positions that it held in the last election.

BC NDP leader John Horgan has come out against the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion, but the BC NDP remain supportive of other fossil fuel development: Weaver has been the main critic in the legislature of the Liberal government’s LNG “pipedream” for years, while the BC NDP backed tax breaks for LNG companies and lent support to limited LNG development.

You’d expect the Greens to have the strongest climate policy. Given the fact that the world’s leaders (well most) have agreed to de-carbonize their economies, you might also expect the Greens to have the strongest plan for the economy of the future.

Where they are also making the difference is in their effectiveness in finding the moral high ground with other issues.

The party, for example, decided to unilaterally ban corporate and union donations. After a series of scandals about big money buying political influence, the policy has won the Greens respect and an upsurge in its political donations.

The net result is that the Greens will be fighting this election with more paid staff, a bigger advertising budget, a bio-diesel campaign bus, and the wind behind their backs.

In 2013, in Weaver’s Victoria riding, Green support swung from 9% of the previous election to 41%. He’s expected to win his seat again. The big question is, as the writ drops, how many Greens are going to join him in the legislature?

Weaver has been saying for years that the Greens are in this election to win. He was even more bullish about that position when I talked to him last week.

It doesn’t look impossible, but it would take a great campaign and the right kind of luck for that to happen.

I’m guessing they’d be satisfied with four seats, which would mean party status in the legislature. Given the current polling, it’s within reach.

Andrew Weaver: "Signs Are Very Important To Me" from icycle on Vimeo.