Iain Hunter: Green's Andrew Weaver represents more than Oak Bay

An oldster I met in my neighbourhood on Wednesday had a new spring in his shuffle because Andrew Weaver had just been elected MLA for Oak Bay-Gordon Head.

He thinks that from his new political platform, Weaver, who earned a share in the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize as member of the International Panel on Climate Change, will have more clout in the war against global warming.

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I didn’t draw the old fellow’s attention to the report, practically on the eve of the provincial election, that the level of carbon dioxide in the world’s atmosphere has risen above 400 parts per million for the first time in more than three million years.

I didn’t want to suggest to him that CO2 isn’t the only problem, that there’s other nasty man-made stuff choking the life out of our planet too — that it’s probably too late to reverse a lot of the damage that has been done.

Neither did I have the heart to remind him that by moving, at least partially, from the laboratory to the legislature, Weaver has to contend with a lot of issues besides the survival of the planet. I also kept to myself a nagging thought that as a politician, his most passionate advocacy might be suspect.

In one sense, Weaver is now for climate change — not the world’s climate but the climate in the legislature. It’s one that’s nastily partisan and stifling, where debate is shallow and often completely beside any point worth making.

At least that’s the way Weaver seems to see it. He’s convinced that people are fed up with partisan politics, where people elected to address the issues and concerns of their constituents spend their time quibbling and insulting one another.

As the only Green MLA, he won’t be under a party whip. He feels he’ll be able to raise issues that might not be raised otherwise, to support whatever government policies are good and oppose those that are bad.

As a scientist, he will demand that decisions be based on evidence, that evidence not be produced for decisions already made.

He decries the influence of “special interests” to which parliamentarians succumb too often, and it will be interesting to see where that leads.

As a scientist, he knows that the protection of special interests is why so little has been done by governments in the face of climate change. As a politician, he’ll be dealing with a party in government that consistently confuses special interests with the public interest — as the effusive post-election press releases from energy outfits, chambers of commerce, business associations and condo builders remind us.

Weaver acknowledged after his election that “I’m way out of my comfort zone.” I’m not sure that many of those who voted for him would want him to become too comfortable in a system he finds so deficient.

Elizabeth May was voted by her fellow MPs as Parliamentarian of the Year for 2012, yet nothing in the House of Commons seems to have changed much.

It must not be by accident that B.C. — this Island — has been chosen to refresh the political climate by electing Green members at the federal and now provincial level. And though Weaver would like to see some form of proportional representation adopted, he should remember that he got in simply by being first past the post.

The turnout in Oak Bay-Gordon Head that gave him victory was the third-highest of all ridings. Green support rose in many ridings, notably next door in Saanich North and the Islands, prompting silly analyses like the one saying that if every Green voter had supported the NDP, Adrian Dix would be premier.

There are green shoots appearing among the bilious orange and hectic red electoral fields all over the province, and they will be nourished.

Weaver represents more than the 9,602 who cast their ballots for him; more than one riding. He represents the hopes of a lot of British Columbians who want better governance and a better world.

He represents a conscience too long dulled by greed and ideology.

The old gent went on his way and, I swear, he gave a little skip.

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