VANCOUVER - If the campaign in the Vancouver Island riding of Oak Bay-Gordon Head was all about academic credentials, Andrew Weaver would win hands down.
But the University of Victoria scientist, a member of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore, wants voters to know he's got a life outside academia.
Weaver, 51, is married, has two children, loves rugby and coaching soccer, and has a "wicked" collection of O-Pee-Chee hockey cards dating back to 1968, of which the most valuable specimens are safely locked away.
He also appears to be a congenial guy, nice enough to attract a friendly visit to his campaign office from rival B.C. Conservative Party candidate Greg Kazakoff last week.
"You're starting to see, I think, in British Columbia, certainly within Vancouver Island, a reclamation of our parliamentary democracy by people who are fed up with the status quo," said Weaver.
"I think we're going to surprise an awful lot of people in this area. Maybe, they won't be surprised."
He said he believes politics is about solutions, not about partisanship, and he picked the Green Party because they, like the Conservatives, don't whip their members during legislative votes.
In a parliamentary democracy, people elect a constituent representative, he said, so it's really important for MLAs to be able to represent those constituents and vote freely and not be told by a party whip what to say and when to vote.
Weaver is facing longtime Liberal cabinet minister Ida Chong, the three-term Liberal MLA who most recently served as minister of aboriginal relations and reconciliation. Then there's NDP candidate Jessica Van der Veen who's running for the job for the second time, and Conservative Kazakoff.
Michael Prince, a professor of social policy at the University of Victoria, said Weaver could be a spoiler in the riding.
"In a way, he represents the transformation from Birkenstocks to the business-suit look," said Prince.
He said the Greens are coming across not just as a social movement or political protest but as a serious, professional party under candidates like Weaver who has experience dealing with public, government and business groups and is an effective communicator.
Prince said Chong has even described herself as the underdog in the race, and Weaver will draw support from all types of sectors, including those who may have supported the Liberal MLA.
"They may find in Andrew Weaver a very attractive candidate to move their vote or not vote at all," he said. "Some, I think, disenchanted Liberals. . . may sit this one out, but others who feel bad about not voting may say, 'Jeez, I might see him as a nice place to park (my) vote.'"
But Prince said for Weaver to win, Chong's support would have to "massively collapse," something that's not impossible although there's more likely to be a close two-way race between the Liberals and NDP.
Weaver said his 25-year-career as a scientist has prepared him well for the job. He said he knows how government policy is created because he's worked with panels associated with the United Nations, National Academy of Sciences and the B.C. government's Climate Action Team.
As a scientist, Weaver said he'll make policy decisions based on evidence, instead of making a decision and then finding the evidence to support it.
"We say what does the evidence suggest we should do, or is this policy consistent with the evidence," he said.
A graduate of Oak Bay high school, Weaver received an undergraduate degree from the University of Victoria in mathematics and physics in 1983.
He studied at the University of Cambridge in 1984, playing rugby while he was in the United Kingdom.
By 1987, he earned a PhD in applied mathematics from the University of British Columbia, after which he spent time at McGill University, Australia's University of New South Wales and the University of Washington.
He has authored or co-authored more than 200 peer-reviewed papers and been named to the Order of British Columbia.
Weaver said he decided to work at the University of Victoria over the Massachusetts Institute of Technology because of quality-of-life issues, and the fact his two children would grow up with their grandparents.
He said he'll soon celebrate his 25th wedding anniversary with his wife, Helen, the mother of his children.
"The most important thing to us is family," said Weaver who has coached his Grade 9 son's soccer team. "You only get one chance in this world, being with your family, having a supportive family, being around family and enjoying, you know, daily life."
A part of that life is his O-Pee-Chee hockey-card collection that dates back to 1968.
"I have a wicked collection," he said. "I've got every set and series of O-Pee-Chee card since 1968. It's just too many. I don't know. Pick it and I've got it."
Weaver said his favourite is the 1971-72 series, the year Ken Dryden's rookie card was published. He said it's one of the most beautiful early sets.
"People need something that they can say is there's that they can actually do quietly to themselves," he said. "Some people like to read. Some people like to collect stamps. Some people like to sew. Some people like to knit."
"It's just fun," he added.
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