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Les Leyne: Green brinkmanship raises doubts

Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver’s threats this week might earn him some differentiation from the NDP. But it’s hard to figure out what he thinks they’re accomplishing on the electoral-reform agenda.
Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver, right, with MLAs Adam Olsen and Sonia Furstenau.

Les Leyne mugshot genericGreen Party Leader Andrew Weaver’s threats this week might earn him some differentiation from the NDP.

But it’s hard to figure out what he thinks they’re accomplishing on the electoral-reform agenda.

He and Premier John Horgan have been going on at great length about the virtues of minority governments ever since the current one was formed in July.

Now Weaver is making brash guarantees that it’s all going to fall apart if he doesn’t get what he wants.

So much for the working example of how smooth, secure and collaborative minority governments can be. This one lasted just six months before the first unequivocal ultimatum from the junior partner arrived.

After Horgan confessed he would talk about liquefied natural gas on the Asian trade trip that starts today, Weaver took to Twitter with a vengeance.

“Lest there be any doubt, let me be perfectly clear: NDP government will fall in non-confidence if after all that has happened it continues to pursue LNG folly.”

And: “If the B.C. NDP caucus continue their generational sellout embodied in the LNG folly of the B.C. Liberals, their government will fall.”

He seems to be assuming Liberals would vote against LNG, which is a big logic leap. Any vote on LNG could easily go 84-3. He’s also assuming it would be a confidence vote, which isn’t necessarily so.

The stand looks to be manufactured to counter the impression that the Greens and NDP have morphed into one big entity, which is what the Liberals are advancing. But his threat erodes all his previous assurances that minority governments can be just as stable as majorities. That, in turn, blows a big hole in the campaign to change to a proportional-representation voting model — a reform that the Greens really want.

That model almost guarantees continuing minority governments in B.C. So Weaver will be campaigning for such a move at the same time he’s proving how much more precarious and uncertain it is than the current system.

If voters have to put up with a confidence crisis every time the NDP does something he disagrees with, a lot of the air is going to seep out of the proportional-representation balloon over the next year.

It’s curious that he would abruptly go to the wall on an issue that’s more or less dormant. The B.C. Liberals bent over backward to get a big LNG industry going, and failed. If it didn’t happen then, it’s not going to happen over the term of this government.

Weaver could easily park LNG in the file of things he doesn’t have to worry about for a while. Instead, he’s playing a silly game with it, one that shows how strange minority governments can get.

The NDP has been on the record with cautious, conditional support for LNG for a couple of years. If it’s such a big deal now, why wasn’t this handled in the confidence-and-supply agreement?

He’s also trying to start a different argument at the same time he’s developing this imaginary showdown over LNG. Weaver wants a ban on foreign house-buyers. He launched another social-media blitz on the topic this week.

Horgan won’t go that far. Will this eventually come to “ban foreign buyers or I’ll bring the government down,” as well?

Too soon to say. But this isn’t the harmonious minority-government agenda-setting they’ve been trying to present.

Weaver wrote an op-ed last summer saying the NDP-Green deal was a chance to make major changes in the way government works, and “in order to make these changes a reality, B.C. needs a stable government.”

So he assured readers the confidence-and-supply agreement would provide “stability.”

“Good faith and no surprises” was the mantra “to ensure we can maintain a stable minority government for four years,” he said.

No surprises works both ways. And a snap spring election courtesy of the Greens would surprise everybody.

This sudden game of chicken over a concept that is a long way from going anywhere is interesting. But it will be equally interesting to watch Weaver maintain the brinkmanship at the same time he’s pitching proportional representation and the resulting minority governments as a stable alternative that’s good for B.C.