Weaver can bring down gov­ern­ment, but he likely can’t bring down the dam

Vancouver Sun - - OPINION - VAUGHN PALMER [email protected] twit­­nPalmer

Green Leader An­drew Weaver was asked this week why, in spite of his strong op­po­si­tion to Site C, he’s al­ready ruled out bring­ing down the NDP gov­ern­ment if it pro­ceeds with the project.

Weaver be­gan by blast­ing the Green party’s part­ners in power shar­ing for lack of courage, say­ing the New Democrats al­ready have all the in­for­ma­tion they need to can­cel the hy­dro­elec­tric dam on the Peace River.

“Frankly, they had the in­for­ma­tion on which to make a de­ci­sion a num­ber of weeks ago,” Weaver said, re­fer­ring to the Nov. 1 find­ings of the B.C. Util­i­ties Com­mis­sion that the project was over bud­get and likely be­hind sched­ule.

“They should have made a de­ci­sion im­me­di­ately af­ter the BCUC re­port. They did not have the courage to say that it should be stopped. They kicked the can down the road,” the Green leader told re­porters dur­ing a post­mortem news con­fer­ence on the fall leg­is­la­ture ses­sion in his of­fice Mon­day.

“When you’re afraid to make the prin­ci­pled de­ci­sion up­front, you end up with the prob­lem you have right now — no mat­ter what de­ci­sion you make, a whole bunch of peo­ple are go­ing to be up­set.”

For all the scorn Weaver heaps on the New Democrats for their hes­i­ta­tion, he’s nev­er­the­less pre­dict­ing they will soon enough de­cide to con­tinue build­ing Site C: “The NDP is afraid of con­tin­u­ally be­ing framed by the Lib­er­als as anti-jobs.”

He’s also gone on record sev­eral times as say­ing if the New Democrats do pro­ceed, they need not fear that the Greens will de­feat them in the leg­is­la­ture: “We will not cause gov­ern­ment to fail over this de­ci­sion.”

Greens hold out hope that some New Democrats would cross to them in protest over ap­proval of Site C. But why would New Democrats be ex­pected to aban­don their party when the Greens won’t use their vot­ing lever­age to force the is­sue?

Asked why he chose to let the New Democrats off the hook on Site C, Weaver said the Greens have only two choices: “If they don’t do what we like, we could de­feat the gov­ern­ment at the next op­por­tu­nity, or not.”

He and his col­leagues then have to ask them­selves: “What are the risks if we do that?” — mean­ing bring down the gov­ern­ment and force an­other elec­tion.

“Well, the risks are that NDP get a ma­jor­ity gov­ern­ment and they con­tinue on do­ing the same,” Weaver said.

“Risks are the Lib­er­als get a ma­jor­ity gov­ern­ment and then Site C con­tin­ues on the same path.”

Weaver dis­counted the Greens’ chances of win­ning a ma­jor­ity: “We’ve got some work to do to go from three seats to 45 or so.”

Hence his po­lit­i­cal cal­cu­lus: “Our out­come that we’re look­ing for is de­feat Site C. Hav­ing gov­ern­ment fall, does that achieve that out­come? No. Many would just view us as be­ing ir­re­spon­si­ble be­cause we’re pick­ing up our ball and go­ing home.”

In­stead, the Greens will ar­gue: “We’re go­ing to make you (the NDP) wear this mistake by bring­ing it to the at­ten­tion of B.C. (and) at the same time make the best of what hap­pens.”

Still, Weaver’s stance does sup­port sus­pi­cions he is giv­ing the New Democrats a pass on this and other is­sues be­cause of the Greens’ paramount in­ter­est in elec­toral re­form and pas­sage of next year’s ref­er­en­dum on pro­por­tional rep­re­sen­ta­tion.

Weaver scoffed at the sug­ges­tion. “PR has never been a driver for me as an in­di­vid­ual,” he in­sisted. “I haven’t gone all in on pro­por­tional rep­re­sen­ta­tion. We’re not hung up on that.”

Far from be­ing will­ing to give the NDP a pass on leg­is­la­tion, the Greens are de­ter­mined to hold them to ac­count. “Any­one who knows me knows that is the last thing in the world — that I will be co-opted for some out­come,” he said.

But Weaver’s in­sis­tence that pro­por­tional rep­re­sen­ta­tion is no big deal for him and the Greens is dif­fi­cult to square with the po­si­tion he took last spring.

The elec­tion re­sults were still up in the air in mid-May when Weaver laid out what he char­ac­ter­ized as the three poli­cies nec­es­sary to ob­tain Green sup­port in form­ing a gov­ern­ment.

“The three things that we have men­tioned pub­licly are — and they are not changed, of course — we have to have party sta­tus. Party sta­tus is crit­i­cal, party sta­tus in a means and ways that al­low us to do our job, No. 1. No. 2, ban big money. No. 3 is pro­por­tional rep­re­sen­ta­tion — a plan to ac­tu­ally get there.”

Later that month, he and the other two Green MLAs made pro­por­tional rep­re­sen­ta­tion one of the fun­da­men­tals they were seek­ing in the talks that led to the pow­er­shar­ing deal with the New Democrats.

“Shift­ing our vot­ing sys­tem to pro­por­tional rep­re­sen­ta­tion, where a party’s pop­u­lar vote equals the percentage of seats it re­ceives, will en­sure that vot­ers’ di­verse voices are more fully rep­re­sented in our democ­racy,” they wrote. “We have made this topic fun­da­men­tal to our talks.”

Asked in that same May 17 news con­fer­ence where Site C fig­ured in his ne­go­ti­a­tion pri­or­i­ties, Weaver replied: “It’s on the list. … But where, we haven’t dis­cussed.”

From to­day’s per­spec­tive, it is clear that when it came to deal-breakers for the Greens, Site C was nowhere on the list. For all of Weaver’s de­nials, I have to think that get­ting to yes on pro­por­tional rep­re­sen­ta­tion re­mains at the top of the Green pri­or­i­ties.

Our out­come that we’re look­ing for is de­feat Site C. Hav­ing gov­ern­ment fall, does that achieve that out­come? No.


B.C. Green leader


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