Greens hang onto three seats, but 'time in the sun' over

B.C. Green Leader Sonia Furstenau and fellow Green Adam Olsen appear to have retained their seats in the legislature, and while the party lost former leader Andrew Weaver’s seat to the NDP, it was set to pick up a third seat in West Vancouver-Sea to Sky.

Early results Saturday showed Furstenau, who was hit with a snap election just one week into her leadership, was able to hang onto her Cowichan Valley seat, while Olsen appeared to easily win his seat in Saanich North and the Islands.

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While NDP candidate Murray Rankin won Oak Bay-Gordon Head, filling the seat formerly held by Weaver, Whistler environmental engineer and former Gibsons city councillor Jeremy Valeriote was poised to join his Green colleagues in the legislature, leading in West Vancouver-Sea to Sky. The party was also running a close second to the NDP in Nelson-Creston.

“B.C. is stronger with the B.C. Green Party in the legislature,” said Furstenau.

“We will be there to show collaborative leadership through the pandemic and to hold government to account on issues that matter most to voters.”

Olsen said the B.C. Greens will continue to hold government accountable. “We’re going to have the opportunity to stand in question period, we’re going to have the opportunity to stand at budget estimates, we’re going to have the opportunity to build relationships with people in communities across the province,” said Olsen.

“[NDP Leader John] Horgan wanted to have a majority government, so he can make all the decisions. Well, he’s going to have to be held accountable for the decisions that he’s going to make and it’s long past the time now where you can blame the previous government.”

Even if the B.C. Greens hold onto three seats, they have lost their “time in the sun,” said political communications expert David Black of Royal Roads University, noting the party’s remarkable former role as a junior partner with the NDP in a minority government since 2017.

Under the former confidence and supply agreement signed between the Greens and NDP in 2017 to form a minority NDP government after a virtual tie between the Liberals and NDP, the Greens had regular meetings with the premier and input on policy and legislation.

The Greens tout accomplishments including contributing to the NDP’s CleanBC plan to reduce B.C.’s annual emissions by 19 million tonnes by 2030, as well as the passage of the Climate Accountability Act.

But the B.C. Greens weren’t able to deliver proportional-representation voting or stop a massive LNG Canada and Coastal Gaslink pipeline project across northern B.C., the Trans Mountain oil pipeline twinning project or the Site C hydroelectric dam.

Furstenau said it was difficult to “always succeed” with only three of 87 members of the legislature. Weaver, who had represented Oak Bay-Gordon Head since 2013, but stepped down as B.C. Green leader and sat as an independent, endorsed Horgan and the NDP in the election, making public a deep rift with his successor.

“That’s a remarkable thing,” said Black. “Clearly, there were some policy differences” between Weaver, a centrist, and Furstenau, a progressive.”

B.C. has traditionally been a largely two-party system, said Black, adding it has always been difficult for a third party to thrive in the province, even though a three-party system “encourages parties to step away from the script and do things that are creative.”

Furstenau said the NDP and Liberals are stuck in an “old way of thinking,” seeing politics as being about power and partisanship rather than governance and service. “If Horgan had been focused on governance and service, he never would have called this election,” said Furstenau.

Furstenau said she has been inspired by New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern for winning a majority government and making the decision to have members of other parties at the cabinet table “because she recognizes that that is the best governance that a government can provide.”

Furstenau is convinced the B.C. Greens will continue to play an important role in B.C., saying it’s the only party “that seems to recognize the urgency of actual action on climate change, of actual action on inequality.”

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