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Greens' Weaver Hoping for an NDP Victory Tuesday

New Dems' environmental platform preferable to Liberals' 'nobody believes' says Oak Bay-Gordon Head candidate.

By Geoff Dembicki 8 May 2013 | TheTyee.ca

Geoff Dembicki is a member of The Tyee's B.C. Election 2013 reporting team. Find his previous articles published on The Tyee here.

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BC Greens' star candidate Andrew Weaver acknowledges his candidacy poses a 'threat' to NDP.

One of the B.C. Green Party's most prominent candidates, Andrew Weaver, believes his candidacy presents a "threat" to Adrian Dix's NDP, and the "old-fashioned" politics it represents.

That's the reason, Weaver is convinced, the NDP is so set on defeating his Oak Bay-Gordon Head campaign. There was Dix's sudden announcement on Kinder Morgan's pipeline expansion. And labour allies have come to the NDP's aid in the riding.

Yet Weaver said he has no hard feelings. Nor does he appear concerned that 12 of B.C.'s most prominent environmentalists endorsed Vancouver-Fairview NDP candidate George Heyman's campaign on Tuesday.

One of those environmentalists told The Tyee that Weaver's Greens have the strongest environmental platform of any party, but that the NDP's is nearly as good, and supporting them makes more strategic sense.

That doesn't seem to bother Weaver either. "I think George Heyman would be a great MLA," he told The Tyee. "It's not going to affect our campaign one bit."

The reason? Weaver believes that Liberal support has completely collapsed in southern Vancouver Island, where he is campaigning to become the first Green candidate ever elected to B.C.'s legislature.

The local battle, the one being fought door to door, is between his party and the NDP, Weaver claimed. But the Greens, he admitted, aren't yet strong enough to replace Christy Clark's Liberal government -- only Dix's NDP is.

So while Weaver thinks the NDP's environmental platform needs "an awful lot of work," it's still far superior, he argues, to the platform proposed by Clark's governing party.

"Nobody believes the Liberals on the environmental front," he said.

The best-case scenario, then, in his opinion: Dix's NDP removes the Liberals from office, and Weaver, as well as several other Green candidates, takes power along with it.

"We can work with them," he said of an NDP government. And also, he added, "hold them accountable."

'Difficult decisions'

High-profile activist Tzeporah Berman was among the 12 environmentalists -- including members of Forest Ethics Advocacy, Voters Taking Action on Climate Change, and Tanker Free BC -- who on Tuesday officially endorsed Heyman, the NDP candidate.*

Berman's position is a complete reversal from the 2009 provincial election, when she endorsed Gordon Campbell's Liberals in protest against the NDP's promise to "axe" B.C.'s carbon tax.

"What we've seen from the BC NDP under Dix is that they have really stepped up on the environment," Berman told The Tyee.

She cited two election moments key to her decision: the NDP's promise to expand the carbon tax to include oil and gas emissions, and Dix's announcement last month that as premier he'd oppose Kinder Morgan's pipeline expansion.

"It's critical that we vote for climate leadership," she said.

What of the NDP's support for liquefied natural gas, though, an industry that could make B.C.'s climate targets difficult -- if not "impossible," say some -- to meet?

Why not instead support the Green Party, which is unequivocally opposed to gas development, and would increase B.C.'s carbon tax, as well as broadening it? Not to mention that Weaver is a Nobel Prize-winning climate scientist?

"These are difficult decisions to make," Berman said. "Does the Green Party have a stronger green platform? Absolutely."

But there are also strategic considerations. "They're not going to form the next government," she added.

'Not in a million years'

Weaver, one of Canada's leading authorities on climate change, and arguably the Green Party's star candidate, agrees with Berman on that one point. "We've never said we're going to form the next government," he said. "Not yet."

With polls closing the gap between the NDP and BC Liberals in the past week, however, it no longer seems as certain who will form the next government. If the race becomes neck and neck, a strong Green showing in some ridings could be a factor in whether the NDP candidate wins or not.

So far, Weaver has not expressed concern he might end up helping to spoil the chances of the NDP victory he would like to see, calling vote-splitting between the Greens and the New Democrats "a non-issue."

If Weaver has raised the Green Party's profile this election, so too, in his opinion, have the Greens elevated B.C.'s political discourse, making some environmental issues more visible to the public.

He was writing blog posts about the province's coal export ambitions back in December, nearly five months before Dix promised "public hearings" on the subject.

The Greens were also the first political party to unconditionally oppose Kinder Morgan's pipeline expansion.

That earned them an electoral boost, at least initially, from the Dogwood Initiative, which has led the campaign against oil tankers in B.C. waters.

The Victoria-based conservation group began distributing leaflets in 42 ridings early in the election, letting voters know that only Green candidates completely opposed coastal tanker traffic, and the oil sands pipelines that would enable it.

Such proxy support -- any outside help, really -- could make a big difference in Oak Bay-Gordon Head, where Weaver is fighting one of B.C.'s tightest electoral races, against NDP candidate Jessica Van der Veen and Liberal incumbent Ida Chong.

"The three of us will be within hundreds, that's my best guess," Chong has predicted.

But Dogwood was willing to negotiate. "We told the NDP," the group's executive director Will Horter said in an interview, "[that] we will shred and print a new leaflet if the NDP takes a strong position on Kinder Morgan."

Late last month, that's exactly what happened: Dix came out strong against Kinder Morgan, and the Dogwood Initiative began distributing a new leaflet, one applauding both the NDP's and Green's opposition to oil tankers.

Whatever electoral traction on that issue Weaver had enjoyed was effectively neutralized.

He now faced an interesting dilemma. In the broader provincial sense, he was happy the front-running NDP would publicly oppose Kinder Morgan's project.

"It's something that's long overdue," Weaver said. But the announcement likely made it harder for Green candidates, including himself, to get elected.

"There's not a doubt in a million years [Dix] did that because of our strength on south Vancouver Island," Weaver said.

'Lost a vote'

Heyman, the NDP candidate who on Tuesday won ecological plaudits, disagrees.

"The NDP has been influenced by environmentalists within the party," he told The Tyee. One might very well be Heyman himself.

In 2009, he became executive director of the Sierra Club of B.C. The activists who endorsed him "are people with whom I've worked with for a number of years," he said. "Almost all are personal friends of mine."

Heyman also spent more than three decades as a union leader. His ability to move fluidly between the camps of labour and green activism makes him an ideal NDP candidate.

Indeed, the NDP has received help from both in its 2013 election campaign.

The B.C. Federation of Labour sent out an email invitation last month to Victoria-area unions, inviting them "to discuss the upcoming provincial election and the role labour can play in achieving additional wins on Vancouver Island."

It added: "We will feature the ridings of Oak Bay-Gordon Head and Saanich North and the Islands." The former is Weaver's riding. And the latter: where Adam Olsen, another promising Green candidate, is running.

"For every letter they've sent out they probably lost a vote," Weaver said. "Send it out again please, we'd like more votes."

But for all his combative language, Weaver sounds like he'd much prefer an NDP government to another three years with Christy Clark. The Liberals in his opinion have "lost lots of credibility on the environment."

Weaver added: "I applaud some of the NDP's policies." Such as? Well, Dix's opposition to Kinder Morgan for one.

"I think he made the right choice," Weaver said. Even though it might ultimately hurt his electoral chances?

"I'm not somebody who will try to score cheap political victories by going against somebody who's done something I firmly believe in," he said.

*Story updated Thursday, May 9 at 1:10 p.m.  [Tyee]

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