GREENS MAKE IT CLEAR THEY’LL LIVE WITH SITE C
Weaver can bring down government, but he likely can’t bring down the dam
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