Weaving a politician out of an academic
r. Andrew Weaver – the man who would be king. Or, at least, the kingmaker.
There is no question he holds the balance of power in the B.C. Legislature. He can bring down the government at any moment by simply voting against the NDP in any matter of confidence.
He is also passionate about the environment which is keeping with expectations for the leader of the Green Party.
But he has an alter-ego, Dr. Weaver – the man who has devoted his life to working on environmental and climate issues.
Indeed, prior to election to the Legislature in 2013, he spent 25 years of his career at the University of Victoria in the School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, most recently as Lansdowne Professor and Canada Research Chair in Climate Modeling.
To say he is well versed in climate issues is an understatement. He is an internationally recognized expert. He literally helped to write the physical scientific basis chapters in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports.
So when Dr. Weaver speaks about the climate and our ecosystem, he carries not just the weight of the Green Party but a profound amount of scientific knowledge. He is a heavyweight on the issue in scientific circles.
But occasionally science and politics collide.
From a scientific perspective, we are more often interested in the data and the conclusions which can be drawn from the information. The answer is driven by the numbers which are accessible to anyone. The conclusion is reached through logical reasoning.
From a political perspective, the numbers are not as important as people’s perceptions. What do the citizens of this province want? How can we achieve it? It isn’t that the numbers don’t matter but they are no longer the sole variables in the equation. Logic can sometimes be missing from the debate.
Over the past few months, we have been watching Andrew Weaver negotiate the fine balance between the politician and the scientist. For years, Dr. Weaver has been a strong advocate of hydroelectric power. It is “green energy.” The carbon dioxide emissions per megawatt of energy are among the lowest of all methods of production – 100 times smaller than the emissions from a coalfired power plant.
But Mr. Weaver, the leader of the Green Party, is not supposed to be in favour of Site C as it has environmental and ecologi- cal impacts. Ironically, much of the propaganda arguing against Site C isn’t focused on saving the environment but on the impact the dam will have on “food security.”
That is, it is alright to clear the land of its native flora and fauna provided the results are used to generate food. It is not alright to do the same thing to make electricity.
In any case, Mr. Weaver had much to say about Site C that Dr. Weaver would likely not have said. And to be fair, Mr. Weaver did not bring the government down over the issue.
But the conflict for the leader of the Green Party continues.
In a Dec. 31, 2017, interview, he was asked his take on LNG in 2018. His response: “If B.C. starts to focus again on trying to land an LNG industry, given all that has happened, I can tell you I am voting the government down. I am not standing by no matter when it happens…. That’s my line in the sand.”
“Given our stable democracy in unstable times, given our access to clean energy and businesses around the world that want to label themselves clean, if we go down this LNG path and start to sign sweet deals again then we might as well have the BC Liberals back in power.”
This was followed up by a Jan. 17, 2018, tweet (the political medium of choice these days), in which Andrew Weaver wrote: “Lest there be any doubt, let me be perfectly clear: NDP government will fall in non-confidence if after all that has happened it continues to pursue LNG folly.”
Strong words and consistent with Dr. Weaver’s view of carbon dioxide emissions and their impact on the environment. But Mr. Weaver talked with Premier Horgan by phone while the Premier was on his Asian trade mission which included discussions on LNG. While the Premier’s office says Mr. Horgan won’t be commenting on the phone call, GlobalNews seems to think Mr. Weaver has softened his position.
Mr. Weaver doesn’t think it will come down to a vote of non-confidence. “We have so many shared values that I am convinced this can work”, he told reporters. After talking things over with the Premier, he still thinks there is a way forward.
But he will be listening intently to the throne speech and does not want to hear any commitments to LNG. Otherwise, Dr. Weaver might just bring down the government.