POLITICS

B.C.'s lone Green MLA becomes lightning rod at B.C. legislature

02/08/2015 11:13 EST | Updated 04/10/2015 05:59 EDT
VICTORIA - He's a climate scientist who's become a political lightning rod at British Columbia's legislature.

Andrew Weaver, B.C.'s lone Green party member of the legislature, spent years espousing and debating climate change theories in the academic world. Now he finds himself in the middle of a gathering political storm, with the Opposition New Democrats and governing Liberals on his left and right.

In recent months, the Liberals have been goading the Opposition New Democrats by calling Weaver the legislature's most effective Opposition politician, while the New Democrats, who have 34 members, say their focus is on holding the government to account, and it's Weaver who often votes with the government.

And Weaver — who recently popped in for a visit to the B.C. press gallery wearing jeans and Neil Young anti-oil-sands tour hoodie, said there's no place he'd rather be than stuck between the two opposing fronts.

B.C.'s politicians are set to return to the legislature Tuesday for the spring session where they will debate the government's budget. Weaver recently announced he sees bright days ahead for the Greens and he will seek the party's leadership and run again in his Victoria-area Oak Bay-Gordon Head riding in 2017.

"They can all go worry and play politics about what they want to do," said Weaver about Liberal and NDP strategies to inflate or mitigate his political value. "I'm not worried about that. I'm worried about our party, our Green party and providing alternatives for people."

Premier Christy Clark and NDP Leader John Horgan admit Weaver's role in the legislature plays a large part in the current political environment even though he represents a single vote.

With the current standings at 49 Liberals, 34 NDP and two Independents, Weaver's lone voice isn't enough to swing votes, but there's weight in his political potential.

Clark, who called the NDP irrelevant and in search of an identity last fall, said recently she hasn't seen much from the Opposition to change her viewpoint.

"Are you telling me you think the NDP is going to do a better job this session," said Clark. "I haven't seen them come forward with very many ideas. I'm sure Andrew Weaver will have a lot of ideas for us, some of which we'll disagree with but at least it will be a principled and focused debate."

Horgan said the Liberals are using Weaver to deflect attention from the political wounds the NDP has inflicted upon the Liberals, including forcing former advanced education minister Amrik Virk from his cabinet post over his involvement in hiring breaches at Kwantlen Polytechnic University.

NDP house leader Mike Farnworth said he has often worked with Weaver in the legislature and he views Liberal endorsements of the lone Green as an attempt to draw attention away from Liberals policies.

"I find it fascinating that (the premier) wants to bring Andrew Weaver up," said Farnworth. "I'm wondering why she's not promoting some of her own back bench. She seems to be more interested in Andrew Weaver than she is in her own back bench."

Weaver's academic boss at the University of Victoria said life as a scientist, and especially a climate scientist, provides Weaver with the perfect training ground for B.C. politics.

"When you are involved in climate science and modelling the climate, and indeed demonstrating that global warming is real and driven in large part by humans, you kind of necessarily become political whether you want to or not," said Stephen Johnston, director of the school of ocean sciences.

"He's always been tough-skinned," said Johnston. "Science is not for the gentle hearted."