I posted this video profile of Andrew Weaver’s two terms in the BC Legislature, yesterday to my YouTube channel.
It includes footage and interviews, not used in my feature documentary Running On Climate, looking at how the BC Greens went from a 30-year-old party with no seats to holding the balance of power in the legislature.
The video is timely – Australia’s Woodside Petroleum just announced they are exiting Kitimat LNG following in its partner Chevron’s footsteps. Only LNG Canada remains of the major LNG projects, which Weaver says in the video will not be completed, even though the pipeline and terminal construction continues.
Weaver also talks about how political brinkmanship over LNG helped speed BC’s climate plan CleanBC into being.
I did a couple of things differently in this video. Where Running On Climate was a kind of vérité, fly-on-the-wall piece I provide narration in this portrait of the scientist-turned-politician-turned scientist.
Also, due to Covid-19 restrictions, the latest interview was done over Zoom earlier this month (5 May).
Here’s my commentary from the video:
Commentary: “On the 14th May 2013, IPCC climate scientist Andrew Weaver was officially elected as the first Green Member of the legislature of British Columbia. Canada’s first Green MLA.
Eight years on and two terms later, Weaver is now retired from politics, and back at his old job of teaching climate science at the University of Victoria.
In his time in office, Weaver clearly changed the tone of the conversation around climate policy in British Columbia.
In his first term as the sole Green MLA, he was a lone voice, attacking the prevailing narrative that a Liquified Natural Gas industry would be a bonanza of riches for the BC economy.
VIDEO: Christy Clark on creating a trillion dollar LNG industry in BC
VIDEO: Weaver “It’s a pipe dream”
He introduced more private member bills than any other MLA in his first term. Premier Christy Clark even threw him a bone and passed one of his private member bills, on sexual misconduct on campuses.
His monstrous work ethic and vociferous positions on big environmental issues, in particular the much hyped but elusive LNG, clean tech and carbon pricing, was getting him noticed by people in BC.
By the time another election came round in 2017, with Weaver now leader of the BC Greens, climate change had become a ballot box question.
The election was bitterly fought
The bitterness arose because the BC Greens threatened to make breakthroughs in multiple ridings, at the expense of both the major parties,
but particularly the left-leaning NDP. Or at least, that’s what the NDP feared.
I spoke to Weaver, in Vancouver, a day after the televised leaders’ debate. He’d given a strong performance and the Greens were growing confident that a major electoral breakthrough was coming. How many of the 87 seats did he hope the Greens would win and what would it mean for the future?
VIDEO: Weaver shares his expectations and the implications of forthcoming election results if Greens win 1, 4, or more votes.
The electoral rupture Weaver had been hoping for didn’t transpire on election night, but the BC Greens boosted their share of the popular vote massively, going from 8% in the previous election to 17% of votes (40.37% Liberal, 40.29% NDP, and 16.83% Green).
Unfortunately for the Greens, their haul of votes only translated into an additional two new seats, for indigenous candidate Adam Olsen in Saanich North and the Islands and environmental activist Sonia Furstenau, in Cowichan Valley.
The greatest drama was still to come.
After the NDP won in a knife-edge result in the Vancouver Island riding of Courtenay-Comox, the three BC Greens ended up holding the balance of power in the newly fledged legislature, comprising of 43 Liberals, 41 NDP and 3 Greens.
Much behind-the-scenes, wheeling and dealing ensued with ultimately the Greens brokering a deal with the NDP, whereby the Greens agreed to support a minority NDP government that pundits speculated wouldn’t survive more than two years.
In the end, the 41st Parliament of British Columbia lasted over three years from June 2017 to October 2020.
The Confidence and Supply Agreement (CASA) assured the newly minted government had Green support on matters of Confidence – like provincial budgets – and in return the Greens were promised a referendum on proportional representation, cleaning up electoral finance, an increase in the carbon tax, fighting the Kinder-Morgan pipeline, and clean tech innovation initiatives.
There was no mention of the elephant in the room, LNG.
Since entering politics in 2012, Weaver’s biggest beef with both the main parties was their attempts to build an emissions intensive LNG industry. How did he square that with his support of John Horgan’s government?
VIDEO: Weaver on LNG not happening, threatening to bring government down, Holodomor memorial bill, and the path out of politics
The Greens voted 14 times against legislation creating LNG tax breaks worth billions, but the Liberals voted with the NDP. A confidence motion would have had to be tabled on another occasion.
Vancouver Sun political columnist Vaughn Palmer has described Weaver as “mercurial”.
You can see why: Weaver was advisor to the BC Liberals, led the BC Greens, shaped the BC NDP’s climate plan, then resigned from the BC Green leadership and distanced himself from his former party altogether, seeing out his term as an independent.
Weaver: “I’m not a party member anymore”
In terms of political partisanship, “mercurial” certainly fits. But from Weaver, the climate scientist’s point of view, he was the most steadfast of politicians in the legislature.
VIDEO: Weaver, the scientist, in the house
At a time when BC climate policy was unravelling, Weaver managed to create an outsized role for himself as the climate conscience of the province.
VIDEO: Weaver, LNG Canada and CleanBC incompatible, in the house
VIDEO: Weaver on his relationship with the BC Green party and what he achieved.