Les Leyne: In search of clues to why Andrew Weaver is leaving the Green Party

Les Leyne mugshot genericEveryone can understand and sympathize with former B.C. Green Party leader Andrew Weaver over his family health crisis.

But the political rationale that prompted him to quit the caucus he led up until this month is less clear. Weaver served notice he is leaving the Green caucus and plans to sit as an independent MLA for the duration of his term, which could last until the fall of 2021.

Putting family first is a given, but that wasn’t the only reason he cited for the decision. In a statement released online, he said he has spent the last few months thinking “about how best to balance my commitments under the [confidence agreement with the NDP], my desire to see the B.C. Green Party grow its political presence in British Columbia and increasing health demands affecting my family.”

“After careful consideration, I feel it is best for all parties if I continue my legislative work as an independent member, prior to the beginning of the spring legislative session.”

Even given the obvious pressures affecting his family, that’s an extraordinary reaction.

Apart from the dominant family issue, he also cited concerns about the Green Party’s “need to develop a new vision and voice independent from mine.”

“My presence in the B.C. Green caucus could hinder that independence,” Weaver said.

He seems to have been grappling with that for months, since this is the second big adjustment to his retirement plans. He originally planned to step aside after a new leader was picked later this year. Then he moved it up to January. Now he’s vacating entirely.

He must have considered quitting politics entirely. But the party standings are so close that a byelection could upend the entire government. He must have considered just taking a personal time-out, and letting his two colleagues cover for him in Oak Bay-Gordon Head.

But he opted to sever all ties.

There was one overlooked clue to his move.

In a year-end interview with Maclean Kay, of the online Orca political journal, Weaver laid his cards on the table.

“The day I am no longer leader, I will go non-partisan. I didn’t join a party until I was a member of the Green Party, and I will resign my membership.”

In the same interview, he vented a degree of frustration with the party that he propelled into the legislature. “It’s really been really tough with the Green Party,” Weaver said. “Probably, the most difficult part is the level of political naivety. I see it all the time as I see these incredibly well-meaning Green supporters on Twitter who are … I mean, it’s a lovely level of naivety. It’s lovely. I mean, it’s lovely in that I wish there was more of this, but it’s a bit like the Christians being fed to the lions.”

Despite the clear signal, the announcement was bobbled, with some confusion between Weaver and the Green caucus about the exact timing.

Interim leader Adam Olsen (Saanich North and the Islands) stressed it was entirely Weaver’s decision. He had some perfunctory words of support for his former colleague, but dwelled more on the caucus’s continued support of the NDP government and the work ahead for the spring legislative sitting starting next month.

That work just got a lot harder. The three-seat breakthrough the Greens made in 2017 is directly Weaver’s doing.

He was — and is — a shining light in the political sphere the Greens claim as their own — climate change.

As is becoming clear, there is no one of his calibre available to step up. It has been four months since he first announced departure plans and there are still no declared candidates.

Now, the Green caucus has shrunk by one-third a month before the legislative session — where they get much of their exposure — begins.

Since caucus funding is set by a per-member formula, the Greens’ budget will take a substantial hit.

Weaver understandably has other far more pressing priorities. He will get lots of best wishes in dealing with them, mine included.

But it’s still not clear why taking a leave and staying mum on leadership issues wouldn’t have suited him better than quitting the group he once led.

It has been a very stressful few months internally for the caucus, and it’s not getting any easier for anyone.

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