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BC Politics

Weaver, Suzuki Clash on Greens’ Site C Role

Party could have brought down the government, says enviro icon.

By Andrew MacLeod 15 Mar 2018 | TheTyee.ca

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Find him on Twitter or reach him here.

BC Green Party leader Andrew Weaver says he was deeply stung by environmental icon David Suzuki’s criticism in a recent interview with an online magazine.

“Those comments hurt. I have a great deal of respect for David, but I simply don’t think he understands what our options are,” Weaver said. “It hurt because, why didn’t he pick up the phone? He can phone me up. He knows where I am. Why didn’t he pick up the phone and talk to me?”

Suzuki, who will be 82 this month, endorsed Weaver and the Green Party ahead of last year’s election. Last week the National Observer published a wide-ranging interview that included Suzuki talking about his disappointment with Weaver.

Suzuki said he had long hoped the Greens would hold the balance of power, but the party failed in its first big chance to make a difference with the decision on Site C.

“Two weeks before the decision was coming, Andrew Weaver said they wouldn’t bring the government down over Site C,” Suzuki said. “He wouldn’t even play politics! There’s no way the NDP would’ve wanted another election that soon. He could have taken the government right down and stopped that dam.”

The NDP government announced in December it would continue with the project.

Suzuki said Weaver sacrificed principles for political gain on Site C.

“His highest priority was proportional representation,” Suzuki said. “That comes before everything else, because he knows in the next election he’s going to get wiped out. It’ll either be a Liberal or NDP majority, so he loses all that power and wants proportional representation. Now politics comes before principle. So I’m really disillusioned.”

Weaver said he and Suzuki have exchanged emails about Site C in the past and he wishes the environmental leader had talked with him before lambasting him in public. “Why throw us under the bus without actually listening? It’s not as simple as black and white. It’s not that simple.”

The Confidence and Supply Agreement the Greens reached with the NDP included a commitment to send Site C to the BC Utilities Commission, Weaver explained. Signed in the weeks following the election, the agreement allowed the NDP to form the government with Green support.

“We understood they were looking for the political cover to make the decision based upon the evidence that BCUC would give,” he said. “BCUC produced a report, a very, very fine report, that said what we thought it would say: ‘It is not fiscally prudent to move forward with Site C.’ [But the] BC NDP made the opposite decision.”

The Greens had been clear ahead of the decision that it was the NDP’s to make, Weaver said. The decision to proceed was disappointing, but bringing down the government wouldn’t have changed it, he said.

“We have 84 MLAs in there with either the opposition or government [whose] parties support Site C, and there are three who don’t,” he said. “How are we, [by] causing government to fall, going to get a different result unless British Columbia were suddenly to vote in a BC Green majority government?”

A Green win in an election triggered over Site C would have been unlikely, Weaver said.

“Here’s the options that [Suzuki] would not know,” Weaver said. “Let’s suppose hypothetically that the BC NDP had public opinion polls which suggest that they would win a majority government if we were to threaten them and they called our bluff. Does he have access to that information? No.”

The NDP could still stop construction of the Site C dam and the Greens keep putting pressure on them to do that, he said. “It’s not like we have some magic wand where we’re in the cabinet room telling the NDP what to do.”

Site C is the third of a series of dams on the Peace River and would flood an 83-kilometre-long stretch of the river to generate enough electricity to power 450,000 homes.

Construction on the controversial project began in 2015, and former premier Christy Clark had said she hoped to move it beyond the point of no return before last year’s election. In opposition the NDP complained that BC Hydro was overestimating future power needs and that electricity from Site C would not be needed as soon as the government claimed.

Weaver said that while Site C will produce clean energy, the Greens are opposed for fiscal reasons and “because of the Indigenous rights that have been trampled all over.”

The Greens have to live by what was in the agreement with the NDP, Weaver said. “We didn’t specify the decision… They needed the evidence to make the decision. They got the evidence, [but] they made the wrong decision, in our view.”

People who are not involved, like Suzuki, have a hard time understanding what’s happening in the legislature and “are not thinking through the complex reality of what’s going on here,” Weaver said.

But the criticism still stings. “Those comments hurt. There’s no question they hurt because I hold him in high regard,” Weaver said. “It’s pretty easy when you sit on the sidelines. This is all about principle for me, it’s not about politics.”

Suzuki could have run for office himself, Weaver said. In the National Observer interview Suzuki talked about former NDP premier Dave Barrett, who died in February, trying to recruit him to run. But he never did, Weaver noted.

“Where were you Mr. Suzuki, putting your career on the line? You could have run for politics. Where were you? You stood on the sidelines.”

Weaver contrasted that with his own actions, which include taking a leave from a professor’s job at the University of Victoria to run for office. “I put my career on the line over climate.”  [Tyee]

Read more: BC Politics

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