The BC Green Party decision to sacrifice a star candidate in a hopeless bid to defeat Health Minister Adrian Dix is baffling.
Dr. Sanjiv Gandhi quit his job as a pediatric cardiac surgeon at BC Children’s Hospital on Dec. 31, saying he was frustrated with health-care bureaucracy and decisions that weren’t in patients’ interests.
A month later, Green Leader Sonia Furstenau named Gandhi a deputy leader, part of the party’s four-person leadership team.
On Thursday, the party announced Gandhi would be its candidate in the new Vancouver riding of Vancouver-Renfrew.
Which effectively means the Greens have given up hope of seeing Gandhi in the legislature.
Dix has represented the former riding, Vancouver-Kingsway, since 2005 and increased his share of the vote every election. He captured 68 per cent in 2020. The Green candidate won nine per cent. It is among the safest of NDP seats.
The Greens and Gandhi say they picked the riding because it offered a chance to make health care a key issue. “I’m running against Health Minister Dix to put a spotlight on where health care needs to go,” he said.
It likely won’t work. If the goal is to raise awareness about the Greens’ health-care solutions, the best path is to make that a focus of the provincial campaign and Furstenau’s appearances. Gandhi will be useful as a doctor who has seen the problems firsthand. But that would be true in any riding, not just a Mission Impossible one.
The Greens do have a strong, practical plan for dealing with the multiplying crises in health care, from the million people who can’t access a family doctor, to the six people dying each day because of a failed response to the toxic drug disaster to the COVID pandemic. It’s not yet costed, but comprehensive and serious.
And despite limited resources and just two MLAs, the Greens have been consistently effective in opposition. Much more so than BC United. Furstenau and MLA Adam Olsen have been pragmatic, constructive and the social conscience of the legislature.
The Greens are trapped in a first-past-the-post electoral system that many people believe forces them to choose between the two main parties, even if they much prefer another option.
But a poll released last week raises questions about whether that will be true in next year’s vote.
The Mainstreet Research poll delivered bad news for BC United Leader Kevin Falcon and good news for NDP Leader David Eby and Furstenau.
It showed the NDP comfortably ahead with the support of 30 per cent of voters. John Rustad and the BC Conservatives were second with 21 per cent, and Falcon’s party a surprise third with 18 per cent. The Greens were at eight per cent support, and 20 per cent of voters were undecided.
The poll is an outlier. A ResearchCo. poll in May found the BC Conservatives with far lower support.
But it follows a summer in which Falcon and BC United failed to present any effective effort to convince voters they should form government. (Its back-to-school education policy announcement, for example, featured four pillars: Ban student use of cellphones, bring back letter grades, do something to reduce vaping and build schools faster.
All fine, but wildly distant from the concerns of parents around a lack of investment in support for students with special needs, a shortage of specialized teachers, and big gaps in COVID protection.
The Greens had options. The party lost the West Vancouver-Sea to Sky riding to the BC Liberals by 60 votes in 2020, when there was no Conservative candidate. The Mainstreet poll — and Rustad’s pledge to run candidates in every riding — suggest Gandhi would have a strong chance in the riding.
And he would attract much more media coverage for his ideas if it was seen as a swing riding.
With just over a year until the next election, much can change. But early indications suggest and BC United is in trouble and the Greens have the chance to make gains. If they can seize the opportunity.