Andrew Weaver casts a long shadow over British Columbia’s Green party and the candidates running to replace the former leader credit him for the party’s recent political success in the province.
Cam Brewer and Kim Darwin say Weaver inspired them to become Greens, while Cowichan Valley MLA Sonia Furstenau says the three-member Green caucus has successfully influenced environmental, social and economic policies in the legislature.
“It was an extraordinary thing to be the first Green caucus elected in Canada,” said Furstenau.
“I would point to an opposition caucus consisting of three people achieving an enormous amount of what was in their platform as a pretty extraordinary achievement.”
The Greens won three seats in the 2017 election and reached an agreement giving the NDP a chance to form a minority government. That agreement meant they have been a factor in legislation and policy to ban large political donations and in reforms on lobbying, as well as had a say on environmental and economic initiatives.
Weaver stepped aside as party leader to sit as an Independent in the legislature. Those running to replace him are set to participate in an online debate Tuesday evening. A new leader will be announced Sept. 14 after online and telephone voting that runs from Sept. 5 to 13.
Furstenau, 50, whose leadership campaign has received the endorsement of high-profile supporters like federal Green Leader Elizabeth May and environmentalist David Suzuki, describes herself as a collaborator who can build teams that get results.
“Where we need to go as a party is to become increasingly diverse and inclusive and to speak more and more to issues that matter in the day-to-day lives of people: inequality, affordability and how are we going to create a post-carbon economy,” she said in a recent interview.
Furstenau supports a four-day work week, which she says is receiving interest from employers who are looking for new ways to do business during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The evidence and data shows that companies that pivot to four-day work weeks reap benefits they hadn’t expected,” said Furstenau. “What they hadn’t anticipated is how much happier and how much healthier their staff would be.”
Cam Brewer said his professional and personal life had connected him to the Greens for decades, but it was Weaver’s message of economic and environmental innovation that convinced him to join the party and run for leader.
Brewer, 53, who practises environmental and aboriginal law, helped structure the Forest Stewardship Council and founded the Eco-Lumber Co-op, which manufactured and distributed the province’s sustainable wood products.
“Those experiences showed me we have to move beyond sounding the alarm and having bumper-sticker sort of solutions,” said Brewer, whose website lists Weaver as a member of his advisory council.
Brewer said the Greens are positioned to make political gains in B.C.
“The platform is there in the Green party and has been there for a long time, but we need a leader who’s going to be able to reach out to the different communities,” said Brewer.
Darwin said she joined the Green party after meeting Weaver at a chamber of commerce breakfast meeting in 2014. Darwin, an independent mortgage consultant and former president of the Sechelt Chamber of Commerce, said Weaver’s passion and pragmatism led her to join the Greens.
“He really started to articulate the Green message in a fashion that can be heard outside of our typical bubble,” she said. “There’s nothing wrong with making money when you’re helping people and saving the planet.”
Darwin ran as the Green candidate in her home riding of Powell River-Sunshine Coast in 2017, losing to New Democrat Nicholas Simons.