The federal Conservatives are not the only party seeking a leader these days. The B.C. Green Party is also looking for a head honcho, and who they choose could have a profound effect on all in the province.
Put simply, Premier John Horgan and his NDP party govern at the pleasure of the Green MLAs, now down to two. The arrangement to support the NDP has put the Greens in a unique position of power.
But it is also a delicate balancing act that Andrew Weaver managed to maneuver rather well these past couple of years.
Will the new leader be as successful?
Weaver is now sitting as an independent in the Legislature, saying that will allow him to better balance work with his family’s health, but he has stated he remains committed to the stability of the current minority government.
His vote will be helpful for the NDP.
Current Green Party MLA Sonia Furstenau (Cowichan Valley) has announced she is running for the leadership, and she quickly made her presence felt by being quite critical of the NDP, not something Horgan and his caucus would want to hear.
She attacked the NDP, and to be fair, the former ruling BC Liberals, on their industrial strategy involving the development of liquefied natural gas exports, and the Site C dam. She says the government needs to stop throwing good money after bad on that project.
Not to say that Weaver always agreed with everything the NDP did either. He said a year or so ago that he wished he had been stronger on the Site C dam when negotiating the Confidence and Supply Agreement as well.
You will recall that the NDP promised an independent review by the B.C. Utilities Commission on the project, and many assumed that after that review, the project would be cancelled.
Instead, Horgan decided to stay with it.
“I know many of us would wish the circumstances were different but I and my colleagues have to accept the situation as we find it, not how we wish it would be,” Horgan said at the time. “At the end of the day we’ve come to the conclusion although Site C is not the project we would have favoured or started, it must be completed to meet the objectives our government has set.”
The decision was a total shock to many. Horgan said that the cost to terminate the dam would result in an increase to the average residential Hydro rate of about $198 per year, and put a $4 billion loss on Hydro.
But still, despite that shocker, and the betrayal felt by some Green supporters, the agreement held.
Currently, the BC Liberals have 42 seats and the NDP have 41. There are two independent MLAs, now including Weaver, and two Green MLAs. One of those MLAs is Furstenau, the other is Adam Olsen, who is serving as the Party’s interim leader, which means he can’t run for the leadership. The other independent is Speaker Darryl Plecas.
Furstenau has been in on the agreement between the two parties since it was signed. She helped develop it. And while there are others who could run for the party leadership, she certainly has a distinct advantage as the only one already with a seat in the Legislature.
Horgan and the NDP can take considerable comfort in the fact that the agreement between the parties is for four years. It doesn’t expire until the next election in 2021.
What happens after that is anybody’s guess. If the NDP manage to get a majority, no agreement is necessary and the Greens can feel free to be as critical as they want, although with considerably less influence. If the NDP lose, it’s also moot.
Right now, it is to the Green Party’s benefit to play such an important role in the balance of power. It is certainly to the NDP’s benefit as well.
The Throne Speech and budget are coming up in February on the 11th and 18th respectively. With the continued support of the Green Party, there will be no confidence vote on the budget.
Voting for the new Green leader will take place from June 15 to 25 using aranked ballot system, if there are three or more candidates. The winner will be announced at the Party convention in Nanaimo on June 28.