Martyn Brown: One voice for change in B.C. election

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      Three parties. Three leaders. Three to seven candidates in each of B.C.’s 87 ridings.

      Only two viable contenders for government.

      Only one choice for change.

      Of that, I am now sure.

      Only John Horgan and the NDP stand to deliver real change, starting with a new government.

      Power is the prerequisite for change.

      Without power, none of the changes advocated by the NDP or Greens will ever materialize. They will continue to be denied for at least another four years, sacrificed to the arrogance of power that oozes from the Clark government’s smug contempt for anyone but its rich and powerful donors.

      Though it pains me to say it, giving the balance of power to the Greens in an increasingly likely minority government scenario also now looks like a sure-fire vote for the status quo.

      Voting Green not only dilutes the anti-Liberal vote, which must be marshalled and maximized to defeat the Clark government.

      It not only splits that vote for change and increases the odds of inadvertently re-electing the B.C. Liberals. It also increases the chances of electing a minority government, which Andrew Weaver seems prepared to consider putting right back into the hands of Christy Clark.

      Weaver has repeatedly refused to explicitly rule out using his party’s potential balance of power to put the Clark government back in power.

      Indeed, it now seems that Weaver may be more inclined to support the B.C. Liberals in a minority government than to support Horgan’s NDP.

      Either way, voting Green is anything but a vote for change. It is rather a prescription for frustrating change, through a deluded gambit to achieve the opposite.

      It is a crap shoot that runs the untenable risk of assuring the status quo, with four more years of a Clark government, potentially aided and abetted by a Green party that should be its avowed enemy.

      For me, that is a risk too great, notwithstanding my support for Weaver’s worthy war on climate apathy. It is a cause that he is apparently prepared to potentially subjugate to another four years of Clark, in a minority government, which he hopes will transpire in a bid to make his Green party more relevant.

      It is beyond me how Weaver could ever contemplate supporting Clark’s government—a government that has eviscerated B.C.’s globally-lauded climate action plan and that is diametrically opposed to virtually every plank in the Green party’s platform.

      For the life of me, I cannot fathom how the Green party leader could ever equivocate on which party he would support if he finds himself holding the balance of power, as he did in the televised leaders’ debate, and as he did again in Wednesday night's interview on Global TV.

      Which is why I will be casting my vote for the NDP — a party I spent nearly a quarter of a century fighting against.

      Whatever my past apprehensions, real or imagined, might have been about the NDP, I know in my heart of hearts they were always mostly just so much partisan bullshit.

      I was in the game and played it to the hilt, in a take-no-prisoners battle to the death where the winner took all and the partisan hacks like me reaped the spoils. No longer. Not this time.

      I believe in Horgan. I certainly don’t fear an NDP government. And above all, I welcome the choice for change that they alone offer, supported by a bold platform that on balance, works for me.

      My choice for change is at once a vote against the status quo, and a vote to bring about a better B.C.

      It is a vote of nonconfidence in Clark and a vote against most of what her government has stood for and delivered over the last six years.

      It is equally a vote of confidence in Horgan’s leadership, and in his team of eminently qualified, highly dedicated, and broadly representative individuals, who are all agents of needed change that neither the Liberals nor the Greens can or will deliver.

      I am voting for change: from a B.C. Liberal government too long in power, to an NDP government too long in waiting, which has earned the chance to prove its merit through 16 years in opposition.

      Weaver's Global B.C. interview sealed the deal

      In a recent Global B.C interview, B.C. Green Leader Andrew Weaver appeared to prefer Christy Clark over John Horgan.
      Global B.C. news screen shot

      Truth is, up until Wednesday night’s interview with Weaver on Global TV, I was still wrestling with how to vote in my riding of Saanich North and the Islands.

      I was prepared to vote Green if it became clear that its former interim leader and provincial campaign chair, Adam Olsen, might stand a better chance of winning the seat than my current NDP MLA, Gary Holman.

      After all, I voted for federal Green party leader Elizabeth May in my riding, in the last federal election, and I am delighted that she is my MP. Morever, I really like Olsen, on a personal level, as I also particularly like his party’s stance on climate action and value its voice in the legislature.

      I also admire Weaver and value his contributions to B.C.’s political culture and his party’s ideas for change, however unrealistic, naïve, or incredibly costly so many of the Greens’ platform proposals really are, upon close inspection.

      I would have had no compunctions about voting Green if it became apparent that Holman was running third, which at this point, seems unlikely. Having said that, I expect he will win his seat by a larger margin than the 163 votes that put him over the second-place B.C. Liberal candidate, Stephen Roberts, in 2013.

      Roberts has recently taken a well-deserved hit for his own ill-considered actions in putting his pursuit of a private swimming pool ahead of aboriginal concerns. I suspect that Olsen is also drawing away a significant chunk of Liberal support, as other Green candidates are doing, especially on Vancouver Island.

      I must admit, I was more than a little dismayed by Olsen’s widely tweeted comment earlier in the campaign in answer to a question about the Greens’ potential for vote-splitting. The Greens’ campaign chair sloughed it off, saying "I’m not concerned about Christy Clark getting back in."

      Excuse me? I am. As I said, any potential for change ultimately rides on a change of government.

      Nevertheless, any thought I might have had about potentially voting for Olsen went out the window with Weaver’s response to Keith Baldrey on Global.

      Baldrey asked him, "Would you feel more comfortable working with Christy Clark in government or with John Horgan?" Weaver’s pregnant pause was palpable. "Pick one," Baldrey prodded.

      Weaver: "Yeah, you’re putting me on the spot. I’m not going to pick one, because I, I…" Another pregnant pause.

      Baldrey: "It strikes me that in the past, Christy Clark has sort of supported a couple of your initiatives. There seems to be more of a relationship there than there is between you and Mr. Horgan."

      No denial from Weaver. No "are you kidding me?! I would never support a Clark government!"

      Instead, Weaver as much as confirmed the assertion.

      Weaver: "You know, Mr. Horgan—he's been criticized for it—he has exploded on me multiple times. I want to work with him, I really do. And I’ve tried and I will continue to try. But he’s got to control his temper. Honestly, he really does, because he doesn’t bring people to want to work with him. Whereas the premier [Clark], you can have a respectful disagreement in a one-on-one conversation and it’s not personal."

      "But that’s not gonna make the decision, because I’m above the personalities" [an assertion belied by Weaver’s response].

      "Frankly," he added, "if you had [NDP MLA] Mike Farnworth there, I’d love to work with Mike Farnworth. Or if you had, let’s say, [B.C. Liberal MLA] Mike Bernier and the Liberals. I’d love to work with Mike Bernier. So, there’s good people in all parties and that’s what you have think about collectively."

      If you watched the televised leaders’ debate, you know exactly what Weaver was trying to do there and in the Baldrey interview.

      He was trying to drive the narrative that moderator Jennifer Burke so unfairly posed with her impertinent question to Horgan in the leaders’ debate about his mercurial temperament. "Do you have an anger management issue?" she asked.

      It was a defining moment of damning import given credence by a supposedly "neutral" moderator. The charge was all that mattered, and once it was uttered by Burke, it could not be undone.

      Weaver went after that issue like a pit bull in the debate, at times, literally foaming at the mouth, trying to bait Horgan like a school yard bully.

      "Are you going to lose your temper with me now?" he asked Horgan. "Are you gonna get mad at me, too, now?" he asked later. To which Horgan rightly responded in frustration, "Oh, come on, man".

      By and large, the media gave Weaver a free pass on his churlish barbs that said far more about him than their reasonable enough rebuttals did about Horgan.

      Set aside the petty and personal nature of Weaver’s ongoing fixation on Horgan’s temperament, which is as politically transparent as it is beneath someone of Weaver’s stature and position.

      Forget, if you will, that Weaver’s tag-team attack with Clark’s ridiculous assault on Horgan, including in her postdebate Trump-baiting, only highlights how completely political both Weaver and Clark are in besmirching their common opponent.

      Never mind that Weaver is at least equally compromised by his own late night tweets, which are anything but flattering testaments to a stable or unflappable character in the face of criticism.

      After watching the Baldrey interview, I find it harder than ever to believe that Weaver will ever work with Horgan.

      Indeed, I am left with the impression that he might be quite content to partner with Clark—perhaps in a cabinet capacity?—in exchange for some unspecified "action" on the two "deal breakers" for his support of a minority government. Namely, getting big money out of politics and advancing the possibility of proportional representation.

      Anyway, Weaver has made it clear that he won’t run again if he fails to elect a whole bunch more Greens, which seems most unlikely.

      I would not be at all surprised if he found himself more aligned with the Liberals in serving out his term than with Horgan’s New Democrats.

      Fair or not, it is an impression bolstered by two other Weaver quotes from the Baldrey interview.

      He said "the NDP, they’ve been in opposition for a long time. I am very concerned about their ability to govern because I’ve seen so much cynicism and so much activism, and so little offering of an alternative…I do not know what the NDP would do in governance. I don’t trust them, based on the record and the activism and the lack of a proper platform. But the Liberals need to change. That’s our opportunity that we are trying to fill here."

      "In terms of the economic plan, our position is much closer to the Liberals than to the NDP, because, frankly, they don’t have an economic plan. Their economic plan is to have government retrofit its buildings with union workers. You know, that doesn’t incentivize industry…So I really worry about—and I think it’s fair British Columbians worry about—the NDP economic plan."

      To recap, Weaver won’t say "no" to saying "yes" to a minority Clark government. He worries that Horgan is too temperamental for a working relationship, in contrast to Clark. He doesn’t feel the NDP are ready to govern. And he is more drawn to the Liberals’ economic plan than to the NDP’s economic plan that he suggests should worry all British Columbians.

      Suddenly, I am downright scared of the Greens.

      If you haven’t yet seen the interview, you should watch it, because Weaver’s body language also communicates a lot.

      His disdain for Horgan seems visceral. Anyone who has followed their interactions in the legislature would know there is not a lot of love there, to put it mildly.

      By contrast, Weaver has seemed visibly flattered at times by Clark’s partisan-fueled pandering. He seems way more comfortable attacking Horgan and the NDP, as he did in the televised leaders’ debate and in the Global interview, than he does at going after Clark or the Liberals.


      I would not bet on achieving it under a minority NDP government that hinges on Weaver’s blessing.

      And yet, it should be what this election is most about.

      Climate won't be a priority in Christy Clark government

      Christy Clark has done a better job than John Horgan of flattering Andrew Weaver, which could influence the B.C. Green leader to keep the B.C. Liberals in power.

      You want a fair measure of Horgan? Watch his interview with Keith Baldrey.

      To me, he looks and acts like a premier-in-waiting, whatever small beefs I might have about his policy equivocations on issues like climate action, prospective tax hikes on the wealthy, or LNG.

      One thing is certain. Without an NDP government there will be no action whatsoever on combatting climate change.

      Kinder Morgan will go ahead unopposed by the provincial government and B.C.’s economy will become increasingly dependent on the reckless development of fossil fuel.

      There will no real change towards sustainable development and no real commitment to a new economy powered by technology, clean energy, tourism, and investments in sorely needed social infrastructure.

      Without a change in government, there will be no $10 a day universal day care system. No $15 per hour minimum wage. No change to eliminate tolls on the Port Mann and Golden Ears bridges. No serious effort to cap or reduce rapidly rising Hydro rates, ICBC rates, or ferry fares.

      There will be no real action on affordable housing and no leadership from government to build 114,000 rental, social and co-op homes over 10 years. There will be no change to the Clark government’s under-investments in education, health care, and child protection.

      If the government is unchanged, hospital waiting lists will surely grow.

      There will be no chance that MSP premiums will be eliminated, as the NDP has promised. There will be no $100 per month increase to income assistance and disability rates, and no change to raise the related earnings exemption to $200 a month.

      Without a change in government, the grizzly trophy hunt slaughter will continue. It won’t change. Our parks will continue to deteriorate. They won’t get better.

      There will be no change to B.C.’s "wild west" system of campaign finance. Big money will continue to rule and too many disadvantaged voices will continue to go unheard.

      Unless we vote for a change in government, there will no change in our electoral system. There will be no move to embrace proportional representation, which only Horgan has vowed to fight for in a provincewide referendum that rightly gives all voters a direct say on that issue.

      Without a change in government, there will be no change in the distribution of the tax burden, to make wealthy corporations and the top two percent of income earners shoulder a tiny bit more of that responsibility.

      If the Liberals win, or form a minority government with the Greens’ support, there will be no interest-free student loans. No $1,000 completion grant for graduates of college, university, and skilled trades programs. No free adult basic education and English as a second language

      If a couple of additional Greens are elected at the expense of NDP candidates who might otherwise get elected, the only change that might be delivered is to deny an NDP government that would otherwise introduce a whole range of changes that Greens—of all people—support.

      It’s nuts. And it is all explained by partisan politics, whatever b.s. to the contrary the self-styled antipoliticians like Weaver might hope to convey with their own self-interested appeals for change that is mostly aimed at electing Greens at any cost. Even at the cost of real change.

      This election is not about "strategic voting"—trying to pick winners, as such.

      It is about voting for change that is utterly contingent on electing the only party that can beat the governing party now standing in the way of meaningful progress. Progress that the New Democrats, many Greens, and even a lot of traditional Liberals alike all support.

      It is about changing a government that deserves to be defeated. A government that long ago lost its moral compass.

      It is about changing a government whose legacy is one of scandal, secrecy, duplicity, administrative incompetence, environmental negligence, social injustice, civic indifference, and economic myopia.

      It is about replacing a government whose signature legacy is a damning indictment of neglect and dereliction of duty.

      A government that has exacerbated affordability challenges that it has fostered and ignored, with cold contempt for society’s least fortunate and most vulnerable citizens.

      The most important change is not whether any given riding will be represented by a partisan whose flag is orange or green.

      Rather, it is electing a government that will not colour our province mostly blue for another four years, as it also makes us red with anger.

      The most important change is to elect enough NDP MLAs to change the B.C. Liberal government. Preferably, without risking a minority government that might result in one or more Green MLAs actually opting to put Clark’s government back in power.

      The only change that really matters is electing a new administration, under Horgan’s pragmatic and capable leadership, to move past the Clark administration that has failed B.C. so badly, in so many ways.

      It has been an administration marked by runaway housing prices, alarming shortages of affordable housing, unconscionable levels of homelessness, self-inflicted public transportation problems, climate inaction, and a fentanyl crisis that has cost an unprecedented loss of human life.

      It is a government that has failed to properly protect and serve children, patients, students, seniors, aboriginal citizens, or British Columbia’s precious natural resources and wildlife.

      A government that is utterly beholden to Big Money and to Big Oil, which has chronically misused public funding for its own partisan purposes.

      A government that has shown only contempt for mending the errors of its ways—on campaign financing, on its outrageous politicization of the public service, on abuses of taxpayers’ money, or on the countless other ways in which it has betrayed the public trust.

      All of which has so far gone unpunished.

      All of that must change.

      All of that can be changed, if the forces that really want change put aside their petty differences and vote with confidence for a new NDP government.

      If Weaver and the Greens want to be a constructive force, in an honest effort to bring about that needed change, they must abandon their theoretical support of a Clark government under any circumstance.

      They must stand up today, without qualification, and commit to supporting the change that only an NDP government stands to offer in this election, in the event of a minority government.

      In the meantime, I’m off to the ballot box, to cast my vote for positive change under a new Horgan administration.

      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. He also served as the B.C. Liberals' public campaign director in 2001, 2005, and 2009, in addition to his other extensive campaign experience, and he was the principal author of four election platforms. Contact Brown at