Martyn Brown: The end of B.C.’s political world as we know it

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      What is the biggest threat to humanity?

      Global warming? An unstoppable asteroid? A nuclear cataclysm?

      For the NDP’s legions of prolific and passionate digital influencers, it might well be Andrew Weaver’s B.C. Green party.

      Just as global warming is already ending our world as we know it, they warn, life on Earth in British Columbia will be irrevocably altered in unintended ways if Weaver’s Warriors are allowed to "split the vote".

      The end is nigh, they caution, if the Green party wins enough votes to indirectly put Premier Pixie Dust and her band of carbon-loving, promise-breaking, people-hurting, Big Money-rewarding, scandal-ridden, ecoterrorists back in office.

      Independence Day be damned. This is war.

      It is no time for splinter forces or for unholy alliances that undermine a focused assault on the only hill worth dying upon: defeating the Clark government.

      Because as in any life-and-death struggle between Good and Evil, Right and Wrong, or Us and Them, winning is all that really matters.

      Winning, as it were, is our best hope to save the world. Especially if we care about climate action, as the Greens and New Democrats both do, to varying degrees.

      Those digitally devoted N-Dippers may have a point, if the latest Mainstreet/Postmedia tracking poll is to be believed.

      It purports to show the B.C. Green party leading on the NDP’s bastion of Vancouver Island by three points, albeit with 28 percent undecided. That was the main media headline, as opposed to the provincewide finding that the NDP is supposedly leading with 29 percent, followed by the Gliberals at 25 percent, with Undecided in third place, at 23 percent.

      That poll would have us believe that the Greens are trailing way down, at 14 percent, only five points above the "nine percent" Conservatives, which have no real leader (Corbin Mitchell, anyone?), only six candidates, and a website that is as broken as the party itself.

      It is a shame that Postmedia did not see fit to publish the actual numbers of people canvassed in each region, which are so low, they deeply challenge the reported findings’ statistical relevance. Nor did Mainstreet’s partners-in-chime deign to suitably profile the poll’s own buried 4.8 percent margin of error for Vancouver Island.

      Percentages make for so much better headlines. They also tend to grossly distort reality with "scientifically" assembled and weighted responses, packaged to tell a story that sells a horse race that I sure as hell would not want to bet upon as currently depicted.

      Anyone in bed with Big Oil, as Postmedia is in its other commercial partnerships, would be the last ones I would turn to for objective empirical insights into a campaign that, I assume, it hopes will reelect the Clark government.

      Be that as it may, in this election, as always for the Opposition, Job One is to rally and motivate the antigovernment troops.

      The B.C. Liberals’ best hope is for the NDP and Greens to kick the tar out of each other in yet another quixotic and divided rush to the perfect Promised Land: that hallowed turf of idealists who too often help the "bastards" win in fighting for their sacred partisan intentions.

      That’s the thing about British Columbia’s uniquely divisive political climate: the hotter it gets the more it tends to fry voters’ brains.

      Anyone hoping to beat the Liberals would be well advised to chill a little.

      Premier Christy Clark is clearly Big Oil's preferred candidate.

      Voters must think about what the parties want

      The polls are no prescription for action. They are at best snapshots in time that should give us all pause to think about one irrefutable fact: power is only earned through a consolidated strength of numbers that is greater than the competition’s.

      To the extent that cooler heads prevail, most voters fighting for meaningful change will stand a better chance of achieving what they each really want to accomplish.

      Real progress is earned and achieved by inches over time; it starts and only advances with dedicated leadership holding power.

      In that sense, only might can make right what has long gone so wrong, in the eyes of the left, which is now vying for power under competing flags of green and orange. Layer the two and you get that special shade of woodsy brown that Christy Clark is trying to lure away from the NDP tent in rural and Interior ridings.

      Some 67 years ago, Albert Einstein observed, "Confusion of goals and perfection of means seems, in my opinion, to characterize our age."

      As the American presidential election and the Brexit vote so brutally proved, democracy can be a dangerous gift to populist demagogues who trade in the greater stupidity of those who never fail to confuse their goals with the politically imprudent pursuit of perfection.

      Indeed, British Columbians’ have proved that as well in several elections. Idealists on both sides of the political spectrum have repeatedly divided and conquered themselves in helping to elect their nemeses. The Right did it in 1972, 1991 and 1996. The Left did it in every election since.

      What is it then, really, that New Democrats and Greens hope to accomplish?

      And what is the best way to achieve that, if only by degree?

      Some might say they don’t care if the B.C. Liberals are reelected; that their principles, party preferences, and local candidates are what’s most important. Fair enough folly.

      Many disaffected Liberals are thinking about voting Green, if only because they can’t bring themselves to vote NDP. For them, "sending a message" to Christy Clark is its own reward, no matter who forms the next government.

      As if voting for a different party that stands for so many things they might not know about, or might even ardently oppose, will send the message, "that’ll learn ya!"

      Yeah, right. Like B.C.’s most truculent student will learn anything from winning another term in government besides teaching her once again that lying, cheating, and ignoring her government’s critics really does seem to work. Over and over again.

      Those alienated Liberals’ first obligation should be to go to the Greens’ excellent new website and learn a thing or two themselves about the party and candidates they are considering voting for.

      They will find lots of great candidates and plenty of clear policies that are, for the most part, at once more impressive and more centrist than those ever previously offered. Yet more often than not, they are also to the left of the NDP.

      To be clear: I am not suggesting anyone should not vote for the Green party if they have looked at its policies, its candidates, and its entirely plausible potential for holding the balance of power in a minority government, and really thought those considerations through.

      I would be surprised if Weaver does not win his own seat, which in itself could put him in the position of queen—or kingmaker, in a razor thin victory for either the B.C. Liberals or the NDP.

      The more Greens that might be elected, most likely at the NDP’s expense on Vancouver Island, the more clout the party would have in pushing its agenda with a minority government. But the greater the likelihood as well that the Liberals will once again win the most seats.

      It is a crap shoot how any increase in Green party support will affect the election outcome, except to this extent: the more votes it gets in ridings now held by the NDP, the more likely it will be to deprive the latter of the seats it needs to form the government.

      By the same token, the more votes the Greens garner in traditionally safe Liberal seats, the more that might benefit the NDP. But only if those voters would otherwise stay at home, or even hold their noses and vote once again for the Liberals.

      For the first time, the Liberals are now scared to death of that potential, as the Times Colonist's Les Leyne recently so perceptively observed. Ironically, the Liberals’ own vote-splitting strategy may have begun to come full circle, to hurt them in ways and to an extent they never imagined.

      B.C. NDP Leader John Horgan cannot allow the B.C. Greens to capture too many votes in constituencies held by his party.
      Stephen Hui

      B.C. NDP walks a fine line on the environment

      So, what do you want, British Columbia?

      A new government? Or a more structurally divided, newly weakened NDP, courtesy of one or more new Green MLAs?

      Do you dare risking Weaver’s dream scenario of giving his Greens the balance of power in a minority government that may be either B.C. Liberal red, white, and blue, or NDP orange—mirror opposites of one another—depending on how the chips fall on election night?

      As a personal fan of Weaver’s, I have to say the Green voice he has so ably offered is a valuable addition to our political culture and to our range of political choices.

      As I will outline in my next piece in the Straight, Weaver’s worthy war on climate apathy, as advanced in his party’s climate action policy, is highly laudable. It’s one that I wholeheartedly support, carbon tax hikes and all.

      Then again, I don’t mind the prospect of $2 per litre gasoline over the next few years, if it might reduce our pressure on the global atmosphere and contribute to worthy investments aimed at more sustainable growth and healthier communities. I doubt I’m in the majority on that score.

      The Green’s climate platform goes way further than the NDP’s climate action plan, and that’s a good thing. Though the latter was released some weeks earlier than the former, its known tenets pushed John Horgan to be bolder than his party might have otherwise been on its greenhouse gas reduction targets and policies.

      If anything, I would argue that Weaver’s plan doesn’t go far enough in its lack of short-term targets, meaningful political accountability, or material suggestions for mitigating greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to climate change. Yet it is an important contribution offering a starkly less equivocal vision than the NDP’s mixed message on fossil fuel development.

      I love that the Greens are saying a flat "no" to the Clark government’s Big Oil pipedreams. And not just as the New Democrats are doing, in their commendable opposition to Kinder Morgan, Pacific Northwest LNG, and other select projects. The Greens also rightly oppose the Woodfibre LNG project, which among other drawbacks will cost all B.C. Hydro customers dearly in effective subsidies.

      Indeed, the Greens are advancing a sustainable vision for growth that sees no future for increased fossil fuel production with huge taxpayer subsidies, which I have previously and extensively written about in the Straight (see this, this, this, this, and this) and elsewhere.

      I will have much more to say about Weaver’s politically unapologetic vision for climate action grounded on higher carbon taxes in that next article. But for now, let me just say, it will all be for naught if the Clark government is reelected.

      On that issue and others, the NDP has been too tepid for this idealist’s liking, even though I well appreciate why it has embraced a politically less provocative path.

      I haven’t always agreed with party leader John Horgan’s sometimes reluctant way of getting to his party’s vaguely apologetic positions on issues that the media has relished in portraying, in driving Christy Clark’s NDP "anti-jobs" narrative.

      But I get that the political tightrope he has been obliged to walk is a precarious line that allows for no false slips. Not if he wants to be successful in forming the government that eluded his recent predecessors.

      Weaver doesn’t have that problem, his hyperbolic bravado on "running to govern" notwithstanding. He can walk the talk without fear or favour, knowing that no one really expects his party to win many seats.

      It is for voters—and only voters—to decide what the Greens' proper role should be in this election in each riding, in realizing their true aims and objectives.

      I actually think that they are more sophisticated than the media typically give them credit for being. They understand the NDP’s internal challenges as a coalition of working folks from largely unionized and resource-dependent backgrounds, a sizable green and highly urbanized contingent, and a whole lot of others who are usually just ignored by government.

      You need not be Einstein to figure it out, people.

      Watch, read, listen, and learn—and be prepared to die on the hill that really matters.

      Based on the last election, too many might give Horgan’s New Democrats only an outside chance of beating Clark’s Liberal dynasty. That might well be the case if voters learn nothing from history and sell his option for change short.

      Yet as we stand on the cusp of the writ being dropped, only days from now, my Spidey sense tells me that Horgan will exceed public expectations in the campaign ahead. Particularly in respect of his considerable, if mostly unappreciated, personable and confident presence, and easygoing pragmatism.

      And yet, as I wrote nearly a year ago on these pages, I am still looking for a leader, in search of the Horgan whom I suspect lies within his imposing frame and his new lease on life as the frontrunner in a battle to the finish.

      That said, his victory depends on dispatching the Greens as much as it does on vanquishing the Liberals.

      Elections are always about fear and hope in a referendum on change.

      Horgan needs to wield both of those vote-drivers in equal measure, to marshal all of his resources to lead green and orange alike to capture the only flag that really matters: the power to change.

      Martyn Brown was former B.C. premier Gordon Campbell’s long-serving chief of staff, the top strategic advisor to three provincial party leaders, and a former deputy minister of tourism, trade, and investment in British Columbia. Contact Brown at