Towards a progressive-green majority in B.C.

Andrew Weaver and the Green Party of B.C. hold the balance of power | Photo courtesy of Green Part of B.C.

The month of May has been one of the strangest interregnums in the history of a province that has had its share of idiosyncratic and, well, wacky politics.

Election night left everybody hanging, and the recounts and absentee ballots – which were only tabulated two weeks later – only narrowed the margin of the closest vote ever in B.C. What’s more, the final seat tally left all of us guessing as to which party would end up winning the confidence of the next Legislature. The Green Party of B.C., having won three seats, now holds the balance of power. We won’t know until sometime this week (and after this column’s deadline) whether the Greens and their leader Andrew Weaver will choose to make a deal with the Liberals or the NDP to form a government.

That we have all been left in so much suspense is bizarre. Christy Clark and the BC Liberals would appear to be anathema to most everything that environmentally-conscious voters care about. From the Mount Polley mining disaster, to the casual disregard of the recommendations of her own appointed Climate Leadership Team, Clark’s time as premier has been disastrous for the environment and the climate.

Programmatically, the Greens and NDP have far more in common and would seem to be a natural fit for a governing arrangement. Both parties want to take big corporate money out of B.C. politics and reform the electoral system so that it’s more proportional and fair. Both parties, crucially, are opposed to the Kinder Morgan pipeline. Both parties, unlike the Liberals, have clear policies to do more for childcare and education, housing affordability and public transit.

In terms of their own voters’ preference, multiple polls have shown that both Green voters and the general public prefer a Green-NDP arrangement than a deal for the Greens to prop up the current Liberal government. Since the May 9 election, Weaver has clearly relished the spotlight while managing to keep his cards close to his chest, suggesting he has as much in common with both parties and that he’s not far off from making an agreement with one or the other.

Perhaps the strangest thing about this unlikely political moment is that the Greens, a former fringe party now on the verge of helping form government, have barely talked about environmental issues at all since the election. And even in the campaign itself, hot button issues like the Kinder Morgan pipeline and Site C were anything but front and centre in the Greens’ campaign messaging.

Whatever Weaver decides, voters in B.C. have pointed the way to a better future for this province – one in which the movements for social justice and for environmental protection converge. The left needs to become more green, and the greens need to become more left.

Yes, there are some disaffected right-wing voters who cast a protest ballot for the Greens. But the Green vote in B.C. is also a reflection of decades of movements to protect the land and the coast. It’s no coincidence that North America’s most electorally-successful Green politicians are here in B.C, the birthplace of Greenpeace and a long-time hotbed of environmental movements.

I can’t fathom that Green voters would take kindly to seeing their party prop up the Liberals. What we should be working towards is a realignment of B.C. politics where the Greens and NDP cooperate to win. If we want a province with non-right wing governments that last more than one term, we should be building towards this new green left majority.

A perfect way to illustrate the power of social justice and environmental movements coming together is to have a summer of unprecedented resistance to the Kinder Morgan pipeline. The labour movement in B.C. should throw its full weight behind this effort, and ignore (or, better yet, denounce) the handful of private sector unions who have crossed the Indigenous-led picket line of resistance to this climate-destroying project that will really only benefit a Republican billionaire in Texas.

Whoever ends up leading the next session of the Legislature will have to contend with mass movements that are resisting the Big Oil juggernaut endangering the future of life on Earth.