Adam Pankratz is a lecturer at the Sauder School of Business at the University of British Columbia, and a member of the board of directors at Rokmaster Resources.
John Horgan and the NDP are the big, undisputed winners of B.C.’s Saturday election – proving once again that in politics, opportunism and shamelessness pay off.
But while the postelection focus will rightly be on Andrew Wilkinson’s BC Liberals, who lost their share of the vote in every region of the province as well as up to a dozen seats, we should not lose sight of the other big loser of election night: the BC Green Party.
To listen to the election-night rhetoric, one could be forgiven for thinking the Greens had made real progress. In her concession speech, Green Party Leader Sonia Furstenau said the NDP called the election to “get a majority and wipe out their opponents,” but were only “half-successful.” Actually, the NDP were 100-per-cent successful – it now holds a majority and much more power – and her remarks revealed just how blind the party remains to the way it has been hammered and outfoxed by a more ruthless NDP since 2017.
Recall that in the previous election three years ago, neither the Liberals nor the NDP were able to win a majority of seats, leaving the Greens with the balance of power for the first time. Although many voters felt the Greens' ideas were interesting but lacking in pragmatism, they were decidedly ascendant. They had elected their first MLA in 2013 in Andrew Weaver, and under his ensuing leadership, the 2017 election doubled their share of the popular vote and delivered two more MLAs to Mr. Weaver’s caucus – giving them their first chance at real influence.
Then, almost as quickly as it began, it fell apart. The Greens signed a confidence-and supply-agreement with the NDP, but Mr. Weaver and his Greens were outplayed and outmanoeuvred by Mr. Horgan’s wilier NDP almost from day one. They never really got what should have come with having the leverage they held. If politics is about power, it is baffling that the Greens so freely gave it away.
The first memorable Green moments of that legislature consisted of emotional outbursts from Mr. Weaver at the NDP decision to continue with the BC Hydro Site C dam. He was outraged, called the project “hogwash,” one only made palatable by the government’s “political spin,” prompting he and his Green caucus to do ... absolutely nothing.
This pattern – outrage, outbursts and apoplexy, followed by zero action on such issues as the LNG Canada energy project in Kitimat and the housing-speculation tax – became a recurring theme for a relationship in which the Greens seemed content to be humiliated by the NDP on a daily basis.
Last month, the NDP broke the confidence-and supply-agreement by calling a snap election, thereby showing the Greens less regard than is normally reserved for a used napkin at a roadside bar. And in one final insult, the NDP even managed to persuade Mr. Weaver, who left the Green Party in January, to endorse Mr. Horgan.
That Mr. Weaver is no fan of Ms. Furstenau is an open secret, but then, leadership rivalry and loathing are nothing new; in fact, it’s a defining feature of the federal Liberals' history. Regardless of its fervour, though, contempt among the inner circles of partisan politics simply must not ever result in a former leader publicly supporting a rival party.
Mr. Weaver destroyed years of his own good work with that tone-deaf, chummy endorsement knifing Ms. Furstenau, and it fed the perception that the Greens are merely unprofessional fringe players with no long-term plan or vision.
Last Saturday, the Greens held their seat count and mostly retained their proportion of the popular vote. This is a sign for optimism that the party’s message broadly resonates with British Columbians. Ms. Furstenau acquitted herself well as a new leader, and perhaps the off-island victory in West Vancouver can be used as a springboard to further mainland success.
The brutal reality, however, is that the Greens are once again bit players with no line to power. They will need to demonstrate more professionalism and pragmatism than they did in the past three years if they are going to regain influence in the years to come.
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