Political alliances laced with pitfalls for B.C. Greens

You would think that British Columbia — or even the whole country — has sat on the edge of a precipice while waiting for the final count of absentee ballots from the 2017 election. With only three seats in the Legislature, the B.C. Green Party is suddenly the belle of the ball thanks to its new-found power over future confidence votes.

While the pundits speculate over how the other provincial party leaders may appease the will of Andrew Weaver’s legislative power trio, Vancouverites already know just how rocky political alliances can become — especially when the colour green collides with orange.

Premier Christy Clark’s confidence might have been shaken by the results of the May 9 election, but she was her usual smiling self in a short news conference flanked by her elected caucus a week later. She said her party was in discussions with B.C. Green leader Andrew Weaver, but Clark demurred when asked how far the B.C. Liberals would go to accommodate the Greens’ so-called non-negotiable conditions.

By contrast, B.C. NDP leader John Horgan looks like a veritable political trapeze artist, willing to meet the Greens’ conditions no matter how far they fly from his party’s platform promises. The B.C. NDP have lately got old-time religion when it comes to proportional representation as the basis for electoral reform, for example, even hinting they will concede to the Greens’ demand it be imposed without a referendum.

What will come of this courting between parties is yet to be seen, but is it a case of political déjà vu?

On election night Weaver boasted that he had “the first-ever Green elected caucus in North America.” However, it was actually the municipal wing of the party that elected four members of their caucus in 2014 – making it the “first”.

Politics in the City of Vancouver are sometimes seen as a microcosm of the provincial scene. Unlike almost all Canadian municipalities, the city has “parties” just like they do provincially.

Vision Vancouver largely occupies the place of the B.C. NDP – as each of them are heavily funded by and closely allied with public sector unions. The NPA or Non-Partisan Association is a free enterprise-leaning coalition of federal Liberals and Conservatives, like the B.C. Liberal Party.

And the Vancouver Greens are almost indistinguishable from their provincial counterparts, eschewing “big money” in politics and advocating for – among other policies – proportional representation.

Stuart Mackinnon is a twice-elected Green Party Park Board commissioner who first came into office in 2008, riding the wave of a Vision Vancouver-Green Party combined slate.

Barely 18 months after taking office, however, Mackinnon found himself in the crosshairs of Vision Vancouver over his opposition toward keeping cetaceans in captivity at the Vancouver Aquarium – a long-held Green Party position.

The attack against Mackinnon through social media was deeply personal, and left an indelible stain in the relationship between Vision/NDP party and Vancouver’s Greens going forward.

This was not, however, the worst example of Green bashing by someone from Vision Vancouver.

In a scenario bearing striking similarities to the looming “hung parliament” in Victoria, the Green Party’s Janet Fraser was elected in 2014 as the lone deciding vote at the Vancouver School Board. Fraser would ultimately cast the vote to decide who would be the board’s chair.

Fraser became the subject of nasty attacks emanating from Vision Vancouver trustees and their supporters. Especially for a political novice like Fraser, it would have been an upsetting experience.

When Fraser chose to support the NPA’s choice for chair, Vision’s Patti Bacchus accused the Green trustee on Twitter of “duping and betraying” her voters. Bullying like this would become the downfall of the whole board, who were eventually fired by the Minister of Education.

This would be very familiar territory to Andrew Weaver, who probably more than anyone in the B.C. Legislature used social media to defend himself against attacks from opponents. Those he battled on Twitter were most often supporters of the B.C. NDP.

Critics of Clark’s B.C. Liberals are praying that Weaver and Horgan can work together. Horgan’s political fortunes as leader absolutely depend upon it.

What happened in Vancouver, however, shows that it will not be easy.

– Originally published by Vancouver Courier