Oak Bay-Gordon Head: In maverick riding, can Greens hang on without Weaver?

As the Oct. 24 provincial election approaches, Jack Knox is looking at Vancouver Island’s 14 ridings and some of the issues affecting them. Today: Oak Bay-Gordon Head.

As the Oct. 24 provincial election approaches, Jack Knox is looking at Vancouver Island’s 14 ridings and some of the issues affecting them. Today: Oak Bay-Gordon Head.

Andrew Weaver may not be running for re-election, but his shadow dominates the campaign in his riding.

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The big question: When he captured this seat in previous campaigns, were his constituents voting for the individual or for his Green Party? And what does that mean this time?

It was Weaver, or at least his serious-scientist credentials, who seven years ago gave the Greens a credibility they had lacked among those who had previously dismissed the party as a fringe outfit, the home of woolly heads in woolly hats. He was a local boy, an Oak Bay High grad who had gone on to become a leading — and vocal — authority on climate change, playing a big role in dragging the subject onto the public radar screen.

In 2013, he became the first Green elected to the legislature. Two years later he became party leader. In the 2017 election he saw the Greens double their share of the vote to 17 per cent provincewide while adding two MLA, both from southern Vancouver Island, to the caucus. The Oak Bay-Gordon Head race wasn’t much of a race at all that year, as Weaver received more than half of all votes.

But then a family health issue prompted him to step down, first as party leader, then as a member of the Green caucus, before finishing out his term as an independent MLA.

What has raised eyebrows lately is how much closer he appears to be with John Horgan than with those in his old party. Weaver was shown with the premier in an NDP video last week. A New Democrat ad in Sunday’s Times Colonist carried a photo of Weaver and a statement he made on Mo Amir’s This is Vancolour podcast: “I hope [John Horgan] is premier again. I think British Columbia has been well-served by the premier…. He’s clearly indicated that he cares deeply, profoundly about people.”

For his part, Weaver says he’s trying not to get dragged into the election. He can’t control what others use in their campaign ads. He stands by the quote that the NDP plucked from the podcast, but notes that it was from August, prior to the election call.

As for his riding, Weaver says it will be well served no matter who wins. “Oak Bay-Gordon Head has got three outstanding candidates from three parties,” he said this week. He went to high school with Liberal nominee Roxanne Helme, says she’s great. New Democrat Murray Rankin, the former member of Parliament? “He’s a super guy.” Green Nicole Duncan, the school trustee? “She’s super, too.”

That actually matters in Oak Bay-Gordon Head. Perhaps more than in other ridings, people in this one tend to vote for the local candidate, not just the party or its leader.

The seat has a reputation as a bit of a maverick riding, one that goes its own way. This stretches back to the 1970s when it elected Dr. Scott Wallace, who ended up as the lone Progressive Conservative MLA in the legislature. Over the past 50 years it has featured some nail-bitingly close races while bouncing between five parties — Tories, Socreds, NDP, Liberals and Greens.

So, the question remains: Can the Greens hold onto Oak Bay-Gordon Head even without Weaver? We’ll find out Saturday — or, more likely, in a couple of weeks after the mail-in ballots are counted.

Note that the New Democrats flooded the riding Monday with other Greater Victoria candidates — Horgan, Mitzi Dean, Grace Lore, Rob Fleming and Lana Popham — an indication that A) those candidates feel pretty good about their prospects in their own seats, and B) that Oak Bay-Gordon Head is a horse race where Rankin could use a boost.

Rankin was elected Victoria MP from 2012 to 2019. Most thought the former UVic law prof had left politics for good after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appointed him as the independent watchdog of Canada’s security services last year.

Helme is a litigation lawyer who has served on the Victoria and Esquimalt Police Board, among others organizations.

Duncan, elected to the Greater Victoria Board of Education in 2018, is a consultant specializing in business analysis and privacy matters.

Rounding out the ballot is Communist candidate Florian Castle, a university student.

jknox@timescolonist.com

THE CANDIDATES

• NDP — Murray Rankin — murrayrankin.com

• Liberal — Roxanne Helme — roxannehelme.com

• Communist — Florian Castle — cpcbc.ca

• Green — Nicole Duncan — nicolebcduncan.ca

2017 RESULTS

• Green — Andrew Weaver 15,405 52.20%

• Liberal — Alex Dutton 7,008 23.74%

• NDP — Bryce Casavant 6,972 23.63%

• Vancouver Island Party — Jin Dong Yang-Riley 66 0.23%

• 4BC — Xaanja Ganja Free 59 0.20%

• Voter turnout: 71.99 per cent

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