B.C. Green politicians become major power brokers with savvy tactics and principled stands

    1 of 5 2 of 5

      These are heady days for the provincial and civic Green parties.

      Last weekend, Green candidates topped the polls in the Vancouver school board election, with all three attracting more than 20,000 votes.

      The only one of the three with experience on the board, Janet Fraser, is poised to accept a nomination from her colleagues to be the next school board chair.

      She's in a good position to gain the support of the only two NPA trustees, Fraser Ballantyne and Lisa Dominato.

      That's because the NPA is far less likely to back the three Vision Vancouver trustees with experience or the only OneCity trustee, who has no experience.

      Once Fraser becomes chair of the board, she'll attract a significant amount of media attention in the period leading up to the 2018 election.

      Meanwhile, the Vancouver park board is also chaired by a Green. In this capacity, Comm. Michael Wiebe is popping up in the media on a regular basis.

      In the 2014 election, Green politician Adriane Carr topped the polls among those seeking a seat on Vancouver city council.

      It's quite likely that another Green politician, Pete Fry, would have won the recent council by-election had there not been two other left-of-centre candidates splitting the progressive vote.

      Janet Fraser (left) is going to be nominated to chair the school board by the two other Green trustees, Judy Zaichkowsky and Estrellita Gonzalez.

      Greens perform well on provincial scene

      Meanwhile in Victoria, the B.C. Green leader is doing an exceptional job creating distance between his party and the NDP while pledging to support the Horgan government on supply and confidence bills.

      Today, Andrew Weaver will introduce a private member's bill to promote ride-sharing. Expect him to claim that the NDP is dragging its feet.

      During this legislative session, he's also urged the B.C. government to consider no-fault ICBC insurance to save costs and criticized the elimination of road tolls.

      On other occasions, Weaver has called for more dramatic action to address high housing prices, the sale of farmland to foreign buyers, and ocean-based fish farming. These are all popular causes with the electorate.

      At the same time, B.C. Green MLAs have praised other government moves, such as a new lobbying bill and a review of industry-financed in-house environmental assessments.

      In these instances, B.C. Green MLAs have emphasized that these were a product of the party's hardnosed negotiations with the NDP last summer.

      The public is being left with the impression that Green politicians are prepared to work constructively with other parties to find solutions. But they're still principled enough to criticize their opponents when they feel this is warranted.

      It's hitting the political sweet spot.

      In comparison, the B.C. Liberals look like old-school politicians who simply oppose everything the government is doing.

      In fact, the Green strategy is increasing the likelihood that the party will achieve its long-dreamed-of goal of implementing proportional representation.

      If Weaver succeeds on this front, the Greens will become a permanent force in the B.C. legislature.

      Vancouver Green Michael Wiebe was elected to chair the park board after Comm. Erin Shum left the NPA caucus.

      Vancouver Greens make inroads

      Carr, Fraser, Wiebe, and Green park commissioner Stuart Mackinnon have employed a similar approach in Vancouver politics. Work with others but criticize when necessary.

      This has put the Greens in a position where they could win control over the park board and school board in the 2018 election. They could also capture more seats on council.

      It's created a quandary for Mayor Gregor Robertson and other Vision Vancouver politicians.

      The mayor's political brand has been built on him being the voice of environmentally minded Vancouverites.

      But increasingly, this has been eclipsed by the sense that he and his party have been ineffective in grappling with rapidly rising housing prices.

      After 10 years in power, Robertson may not have enough political capital in the tank to win reelection. 

      The Greens pass the environmental smell test, unlike the NPA. And it's clear that voters are in a mood for a change.

      That was demonstrated by the recent council by-election in which Vision Vancouver's candidate came fifth. The party's school board candidates ended up in the middle of the pack.

      Is Adriane Carr (right, with national Green Leader Elizabeth May) thinking about running for mayor?
      Charlie Smith

      Civic Greens can drive political agenda

      In Vancouver politics the Greens are now in the driver's seat (make this an electric vehicle, please!).

      They're in a position to demand great concessions from Vision Vancouver in return for not running their own mayoral candidate in 2018.

      One option might be for the Greens to promise that Carr won't seek the top job if the developer-friendly Robertson steps down to clear the way for the very green Coun. Andrea Reimer to run for the top job.

      Another option might be for the Greens to pledge not to run a mayoral candidate if Robertson drops the Vision Vancouver label and runs under a more ambiguous label emphazing unity. 

      The Greens already have some potential mayoral candidates waiting in the wings, including Carr, Fry, Wiebe, and Mackinnon. They're in a strong position to exert concessions from Vision Vancouver should they choose to do so.  

      As Weaver demonstrated after the last provincial election, the Greens have proven to be shrewd negotiators when it comes to seeking power-sharing agreements.

      This is why civic watchers might one day look back at the October 14 by-elections for council and the school board as a pivotal moment in the evolution of Vancouver municipal politics.

      The premier's chief political fixer, former Vision Vancouver councillor Geoff Meggs, has undoubtedly noticed the rising strength of the Greens in the province's largest city.

      NDP won't be thrilled by Green successes

      It could also turn out to have some impact on the provincial scene. 

      If the Greens emerge with even more political influence in Vancouver after the 2018 election, this will not be good news for Premier John Horgan, the B.C. NDP, and the labour movement.

      Don't think for a moment that this hasn't escaped the attention of the premier's primary political fixer, chief of staff and former Vision Vancouver councillor Geoff Meggs.

      Given his experience in Vancouver politics, it's not a stretch to suggest that Meggs will likely play a key role in crafting the NDP's response.

      That's because the last thing the NDP wants to see is a rising Green tide in advance of the next provincial election.

      If the Greens gather even more momentum, it could put NDP provincial seats in jeopardy in 2021.

      Under certain circumstances, it could even create a temptation for one or two disgruntled NDP MLAs to cross the floor to join Weaver's team if they don't feel they're being treated with sufficient respect by the premier's office. 

      That is something that Meggs and Horgan will want to prevent before the idea even has a chance to germinate. And the best way to do this would be to crush the Vancouver Greens in 2018.

      Stay tuned. It could get ugly.