Where does the B.C. Green party go after the provincial election?

The B.C. Greens are at a crossroads. In a province in which the political dichotomy is between left and right, they are running candidates from across the spectrum.

Greens place their greatest emphasis on the climate crisis. So they’ll welcome members who look to the free market to solve this issue. And they attract others who are far more left wing, and maintain that much greater regulation on polluters is required.

This is how the party can end up running a progressive candidate, such as Daniel Tseghay in Vancouver–False Creek, who is an admirer of left-wing Guardian columnist and author George Monbiot. In the past, many of these types of B.C. Green candidates (Stuart Parker, Julian West, Karen Shillington, and Ben West, to name just four) have migrated back to the NDP.

Meanwhile, former Green school trustee Andrea Reimer, now a Vision Vancouver city councillor, has endorsed the NDP’s George Heyman in Vancouver-Fairview and Nathan Cullen in the last federal NDP leadership race. There once was a day when Reimer was doing media relations for former B.C. Green party leader Adriane Carr.

At the same time, Green Leader Jane Sterk comes across like some of those old Progressive Conservative politicians who were great admirers of the free-enterprise system, but who also wanted to conserve the environment. Former Vancouver South MP John Fraser is but one example.

The federal Green leader, Elizabeth May, used to work for another one of those Progressive Conservatives, former environment minister Tom MacMillan.

And the party’s “star” candidate in Oak Bay-Gordon Head, climate scientist Andrew Weaver, has, in the past, praised some of former premier Gordon Campbell’s climate policies. It demonstrates that he's willing to consort with a right winger who breaks bread with folks at the Fraser Institute. Weaver also stood side-by-side with the NDP’s Thomas Mulcair during last year’s NDP leadership race.

That’s because for Greens like Weaver, the political divide is really between those who are prepared to take action to address climate change and those who aren’t committed to the issue.

Climate change influences more voters

In each successive federal and provincial election, more voters see climate change as a defining issue of our times. But there still aren’t enough of them to provide a broad base of support for the Greens, in part because the party comes across as ideologically confused on many other issues.

And in each of the last two B.C. elections, one of the two larger parties has put enough baubles in their window to lure these types green-minded, higher-income voters.

In 2009, Gordon Campbell and the B.C. Liberals had a carbon tax and could talk about supporting run-of-river hydropower projects, which don’t contribute to climate change.

This gave Campbell sufficient political room to proceed with the Gateway Program, which helped accelerate the movement of goods and eliminate farmland. But the carbon tax mollified people like Weaver, environmentalist David Suzuki, and SFU resource economist Mark Jaccard, who all see climate change as a monumental threat.

In 2013, the NDP has raised grave concerns about the proposed Enbridge pipeline. Plus, NDP Leader Adrian Dix has declared that he doesn’t want Vancouver to become a major oil port. He's also called for a more democratic review of Port Metro Vancouver's plan to become North America's largest coal exporter.

If Kinder Morgan decides instead to build an oil pipeline to Washington state, presumably that won’t be a problem for Dix. And if he continues to support the fracking of natural gas, this will rile the climate purists who vote Green, as well as many aboriginal people in the B.C. Interior and the north. But he will still be able to claim that he's far greener than Christy Clark, which should doom her in Vancouver–Point Grey.

For voters who are alarmed about the reality of climate change, it often comes down to who is the least worst. And when the gap between the two leading parties is fairly substantial, the one with the most baubles tends to win the provincial election.

In 2009, the NDP’s Carole James opposed the carbon tax and run-of-river independent power. This positioned her party in some voters’ minds as being hostile to addressing climate change. This may not have been the truth—given the massive public giveaways to the power producers—but that was the perception created.

In 2013, the B.C. Liberals’ Christy Clark has made it pretty clear that the environment is a low priority for her. When a politician shows up every night on the news in a hardhat rather than a bicycle helmet and rips her opponent for undermining the natural-gas industry, it’s pretty clear where she stands. Especially when she won't eliminate corporate and union donations to political parties.

Dix, on the other hand, has made a point of being photographed and filmed in locations with gorgeous backdrops of B.C.’s coastline and forests. And with some very green new candidates—such as Heyman, David Eby in Vancouver–Point Grey, and Ana Santos in West Vancouver–Sea to Sky—Dix can credibly state that he’s far more environmentally sensitive than his chief competitor.

The NDP’s greener orientation this time around will likely guarantee a sizeable victory on Tuesday (May 14).

Dix can learn from the past

Dix’s friend Glen Clark forgot about green voters when he was premier in the 1990s. This is what fuelled the growth of the Green party, with young progressives like Parker and former NDP candidates like Stuart Herzog refusing to support the Clark government. It didn’t help matters when Clark declared Greenpeace to be an enemy of B.C. and then he was replaced by the least environmentally inclined member of cabinet, Dan Miller.

Dix has likely learned from that experience and will try to keep the progressive environmentalists inside the NDP tent. He’ll be pushed to do this by the NDP-supporting Burnaby council, which is heavily populated with green-minded politicians, along with a sizeable contingent of environmentally oriented MLAs (think Nicholas Simons and Lana Popham).

Driving Dix in the opposite direction will be the private-sector union leaders, whose members will want jobs on new megaprojects and pipelines.

Meanwhile, the B.C. Liberals will wake up on Wednesday (May 15) wondering what hit them. Gradually, it will dawn upon some of them that they lost this race, in part, because their leader ignored environmental issues.

And Sterk will have been annihilated in her second consecutive election as Green leader. If Weaver wins his seat, he’ll become the leader.

However, there’s no guarantee that Weaver will triumph in his constituency because vote-splitting could result in the reelection of Ida Chong or a victory for the New Democrat, Jessica Van der Veen.

Regardless, after the election, B.C. will have moved one step closer to the political divide becoming the future of the planet rather than the traditional business-labour dichotomy. And that bodes well for the Greens over the long term.

Left-right split does not define politics everywhere else

In Quebec provincial politics, the divide is not so much left-right as it is sovereignty versus federalism. That’s how politicians of different ideological stripes end up in the same party.

In India, it’s a similar situation. The broad political divide is between secularism, as represented by the Congress party, and religious communalism, as represented by the BJP coalition. It’s not a left-right dichotomy.

In Taiwanese politics, the divide is over relations with Mainland China.

As the right-left divide is gradually replaced by the environmental divide in B.C.—and this already occurred in the last Vancouver municipal election—it puts the Greens in an intriguing position.

Should they try to take over the NDP in the same way that the Greens have more or less taken over Vancouver City Hall?

Should they try to displace the B.C. Liberals as the free-enterprise alternative that’s not in bed with the unions?

Progressive greens, such as Tseghay, will probably find the latter choice abhorrent. But it will appeal to higher income, well-educated voters who understand the peril of climate change but who also have no use for ill-conceived capital projects supported by the unions and construction and road-building companies.

Some evangelical Christians are becoming increasingly concerned about climate change, whereas others are among the most vehement global-warming deniers. And the big-money backers of the Fraser Institute have no use for the climate-change movement, seeing that as a threat to the development of the Alberta tar sands.

But over time, history is on the side of the B.C. Greens as the public sees the havoc caused by catastrophic storms like Sandy, which extended from the Caribbean to Canada. Barack Obama won the last U.S. presidential election in part because of an extreme weather event—just as his opponent was denying the reality of climate change.

The denialists’ numbers will shrivel, no matter how much money and power some of them have now. They’ll be seen as increasingly irrelevant.

Gap opens for Greens in the future

Former NPA councillor Gordon Price likes to say that the NPA got wiped out in the last election because it forgot about the Peter Ladner wing of the party. Ladner is a fan of free enterprise who's also extremely concerned about the future of the planet.

With Christy Clark leading the B.C. Liberals, there's no room on the political spectrum for voters who share his views except with the B.C. Green party. Environmentally sensitive voters can easily spot a political leader who doesn't give much thought to climate change.

There once was a time when right-wing parties were adamantly opposed to extending equal rights to gays and lesbians. That eventually became politically untenable. The same thing is taking place with respect to the environment, particularly on the issue of climate change. Christy Clark is about to learn that lesson.

With Dix as premier, an NDP government will likely succumb to pressure from business and labour and proceed with some foolish projects that don't pass the climate test. If the B.C. Liberals are led by a politician who continues coming across as a modern-day Socred—completely out of touch with the realities of the times—there will be ample room on the political spectrum for the Greens to grow into a more potent political force.

They're helped by the growing urbanization of B.C., which is where some of their greatest support lies.

If the Greens choose a leader from the Lower Mainland, they'll have much more access to the media. Sterk has been mostly invisible between elections, which has had a devastating impact on the party's profile, ability to raise money, and capacity to attract good candidates.

On Tuesday (May 14) with a couple of exceptions, the Greens will be dead in the water. They might not win any seats. But there's nothing stopping them from becoming a serious competitor in time for the next campaign if they look upon the B.C. Liberals as 21st-century Socreds who are doomed to political extinction.

There are several B.C. Liberal candidates who understand the climate crisis, including Sam Sullivan, who's running in Vancouver–False Creek. Andrew Wilkinson in Vancouver–Quilchena is another. They may not feel very comfortable remaining in a party led by Clark or by the right-wing road-building Kevin Falcon, if he ends up as her successor.

The Green label has some appeal. That's only going to increase as climate change continues wreaking economic havoc around the world. So even if the party gets thumped in the upcoming provincial election, it can still look forward to a brighter future.

Comments (11) Add New Comment
Natty
The Greens have so much potential to appeal to a broad segment of voters, it's a shame that it's been squandered. Just because you know you won't win, doesn't mean you shouldn't fight. They need to make clear their policies other than the environment. In many respects, they are a middle of the road choice. The Greens wasted an opportunity to gain ground when both the Liberal and NDP parties were leaderless messes a few years ago. They gotta move Sterk out and get someone in with passion.
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Chrystal Ocean
A similar analysis factored into my decision to vote for the Green candidate in my riding.

I neither trust Adrian Dix nor Christy Clark. The Liberals have had plenty of chances to square things with the voters and have demonstrated time and again that they're untrustworthy. I supported the HST, which is good tax policy, but detest how and when the Liberals introduced it and communicated it to British Columbians. I did not support the sale of BC Rail, which again was badly handled in terms of timing and communication with voters. It's long past time for the Liberals to do some house-cleaning and to sit on the opposition benches.

Dix's elastic principles alarm me. First he was against stating a position regarding Kinder Morgan, then he was for it - I support his latest position. Second, Dix said at the outset that the NDP campaign would be positive, but in the last days he has allowed it to go negative - I am fine with challenging one's opponents. I don't trust that kind of leadership, however, regardless of whether or not I support the latest position taken. Principles are supposed to serve the foundation of any policy and not be subject to prevailing electoral winds.

In terms of issues, I am most concerned to see BC shift from a carbon-based economy to a green economy. Therefore, between the Liberals and the NDP, I prefer the latter to form government. However, I want the Green Party to become strengthened in numbers in this election; we'll increasingly need the party's expertise as climate change becomes more urgent.

In my riding, the NDP incumbent, Bill Routley, is a lock to win. Therefore, given:

a) Routley doesn't need my vote,
b) I want to see the Green percentage improve over the 2009 result (which was an improvement over the 2005 result), and
c) I want my vote to be used as efficiently as possible,

I cast it for the Green candidate, Kerry Davis.


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HellSlayerAndy
"Should they try to take over the NDP in the same way that the Greens have more or less taken over Vancouver City Hall?"

Ah...that's a telling line.
Indeed I have suspected that the Vision/NDP was doing more image damage than the general party had calculated. I bet Dix wished they were more like the NDP running Burnaby, no?
But seriously Chuck...a mayor who was a NDP sitting member of the legislature surrounded by a who's who list of NDP insiders like Meggs and YOUR political compass figures that this right wing developer friendly city council (the most since Gordo) is being run by Greens based solely on the fact an opportunist like Reimer worked as Carr's press secretary? Hell if you recall the NDP were threatening to close five East Van schools -- even DIX had to jump into the fray to quickly save the image.

Pull the other one.

Oh you just did...
Clark's problems was NOT with his environmental stand or they're typical conservative attitude towards the Clayoquot protests or thug attack in the Elaho -- although the perception that a union party that REGULARLY uses the method of 'blockade' to protest wasn't lost on a most former supporters -- no his problem was running a typically corrupt BC government.

But you have my sympathies trying to slap fresh paint on this freak show of an election. There isn't much you can write about one clown, who just ran up the largest deficient in BC history, pledging to be a fiscal conservative and another clown, surrounded by retreads from the 90s, pledging the change thingy...or fresh new start...er...

Here's help with your next crystal ball column -- the Libs are wiped out, the corpmedia will hypocritically nail the NDP over and over again for things Campbell rountinely did, the 801 group will have to concede that Falcon is unelectable and your next Premier will be Dianne Watts.

Done.
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Orange Crush Christy!
Will you consider voting for a Green candidate in the May 14 provincial election?:

My answer to the GS poll is, NO (not this election).

If that pipeline is built it is game over for BC's environment. Way too much to risk. I'm going with Dix and his team.
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Billy Bones
Not to worry. They can always be useful assets/idiots for their BC Liberal Party puppet masters who can successfully use them to split the NDP vote for many years to come.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/story/2013/05/10/bc-liber...
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Frankly Speaking
This isn't the time for progressive voters to be split by another dishonest Liberal ad - helping the liberal party snatch yet another victory. I'd vote Green or NDP if that candidate were the more likely to defeat the Liberal candidate.
Wouldn't it be better to elect any alternative candidate, even Conservative if they are most likely to win, but probably NDP, just to take one more seat away from the Liberals? Remember that if the NDP is elected, they will CHANGE CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTION LAWS to make it impossible for foreign and domestic corporations with deep pockets to control the vote with huge Liberal donations. That alone will change BC politics and give all alternative candidates a far greater chance of being elected in all future elections. But we have to get there first.

Also the NDP has rejected the tar sands pipeline to Kitimat and the huge expansion of tanker traffic to Vancouver and the Islands with all the risks that entails. If the Liberals win there will be hundreds more tankers passing through, as a Green I would definitely vote strategically to stop that as this is a tight race.

Just saying that it is better to defeat the Liberals by voting for whatever candidate is most likely to beat them. Otherwise it will be the same old gravy train of money for the BC Liberal insiders coming right out of our pockets. Same old dishonesty about everything from BC Rail to bad private power deals to the lies about the HST and the list goes on.

Please read the vote distribution from the last election and see which ridings were split to allow the Liberals to sneak in the back door.

Here are the actual votes from the last election (you may have to scroll down a little to find your riding) which may help find which party's candidate is most likely to defeat the Liberals in this election.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_Columbia_general_election,_2009#Re...
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James G
How about back to Langley? Langley, Virginia, to the CIA base in which they were conceived? I kid of course! I don't subscribe to conspiracy theories as a general rule. People do it to themselves with political options.

The folly of selecting an important issue around which lobby groups abound and pretending it is a viable political party is not new. The women's movement at one time considered this and even the gay movement, way back in my own heyday also did. In 1979, the Gay Alliance Toward Equality ran a candidate in the provincial election in West Van-Howe Sound. Did that act promote awareness? Likely yes but not much else. We made much more progress by approaching progressive politicians like Jack Layton and Andrew Petter with our issues. In order to actually make progress in the science of politics, you do have to build alliances and find harmony and unity in progress rather than rarify and isolate.

Sometimes, this means that you get lumberjacks and tree huggers in the same party. That is exactly where they belong. A community and it's economy are about making choices and consulting on the way forward. To bring each and every aspect of resource development to a grinding halt and ignore the needs of a northern or interior town and it's people is short-sighted and foolhardy. Those people will still need work, health care and services. Their children will still need schools. A growing economy still provides enough revenue input to put into ecological protection.

The Green approach, which if ever put into practice would end with pitting environmental needs against basic rights like child labour laws and food inspection regimes would be barbaric enough to collapse under it's own weight. It will unlikely to ever come to power and will soldier on as the party that only throws stones.

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Green in Vancouver.
Not everyone that likes Green Party is on the left. Many green supporters are very conservative living on west side Vancouver. The NDP is really the union party. It gets annoying why the Green Party is always compared to NDP.
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environment.ted
the green party is an irrelevant fringe, non-party
on the same level as the hippo rhino party
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PJ
The green need gov. money so will circle the parties in power and snipe here and there to be relevant ,why Suzuki dose not support them financially ? or is he ?
For BC to survive and prosper it has to take risks whether pipeline ,drilling ,or dam building progress dose not come from smoking pot and saying no to the future.
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Phil
Unfortunately, the Greens are too radical for many voters,including myself. I would like to see a number of Green seats, however, to add an ethical tone to the legislature.

The BC Conservative are the only party that see managing debt, while creating good resource based jobs as a priority- If the polls are right, they will not win many seats. This is the only party that can claim fiscal responsibility.The NDP and Liberals just can't balance budgets.

Scandals,raw log exports, temporary worker jobs, ineffectice carbon tax, 66 billion dollar debt -no thanks BC Liberals.

Perhaps the BC NDP will get the message on debt and only have a one seat majority! That would be democracy in action for the next 4 years.


Remaining hopefull that the pollsters are smelling wild roses.



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