The recent, and not yet fully counted, B.C. election is not only a cliff hanger: it also bares the prospect of a new political era in the province and the country.
First, congratulations to the Green Party of B.C., the leader, Dr. Andrew Weaver, and everyone who worked hard, smart, and without rest to bring about a result that is impressive in its own right, and more impressive in light of the way the other two parties (Liberals and New Democrats) finished.
Dr. Weaver was first elected (and the only Green Party member to be elected) to the B.C. Legislature in the 2013 provincial general election, when the Green Party won 8.13% of the vote province-wide. On Tuesday, Dr. Weaver was re-elected and he will be joined in the Legislature by two Green colleagues, Adam Olsen, who won in Saanich North and the Islands, and Sonia Furstenau, who was elected Cowichan Valley. Dr. Weaver garnered more than 50% of the votes cast in Oak Bay Gordon Head, and both Mr. Olsen and Ms. Furstenau were elected with a generous margin. Across the province, about 16.65% of voters favoured a Green candidate. (The Green Party did not run a full slate of candidates in either the 2013 or the 2017 election.)
The Green Party of B.C. now has a caucus of three. All three are smart and hard-working. Most important, they have character, integrity, and very complementary perspectives, skills, experience, and interests. Expect to see a caucus that lifts well beyond its weight.
The impressive achievement by the Green Party has much more to commend it than the electoral outcome itself. It was achieved without corporate or union donations. It was achieved with a comprehensive, coherent, and carefully costed platform. It was achieved in the course of a campaign that focused on the 16 year record of the incumbent government and invited voters to opt into making the historic binary choice – the governing party or the ‘official alternative’ party.
Many voters found a way out of the traditional electoral box. Politics in B.C. – and perhaps in Canada – may never be the same again (and this will be the topic of a future post).
On election night, the Liberal Party won 43 seats, one short of the bare majority required to govern alone. The New Democratic Party won 41 sears, three short of the bare majorty. The Green Party, with 3 seats, holds “the balance of power”. (Perhaps as many as 10% of the votes, the absentee votes of service people, travelers, and others, won’t be counted until May 22nd – 24th. So the final outcome won’t be known for some time, although neither the Liberals nor the N.D.P. are likely to move from minority to majority position.)
The Green Party will be influential in determining which party governs in B.C., and how. They may also be influential in determining much more, including:
• how all of us choose our governments in years to come (an evolving electoral system);
• B.C.’s future relationship with other provinces, notably Alberta, and with the federal government (the carbon tax and the shift to green energy);
• the short term future of Green Parties in other provinces and in the House of Commons (the reputation they create for themselves be transferred – more or less – to colleagues);
• Canada’s transition to a more robust three party (or multi-party) political system;
• a transition from adversarial politics to a more collaborative practice of politics (remembering that the dominance of one will not likely ever mean the elimination of the other);
• a transition from the “zero sum game” approach to power (power over) to the generative approach to power (power with);
• greater transparency and decision-making that is more evidence-based and future-favouring.
The Green Party of B.C. needs to take the time to think ‘big and audacious’. They also need to think and act with ethical and policy integrity, without fear or favour. I am both optimistic and hopeful.