2016 Year in Review: B.C. voters look for principled leadership

In 2016, a major debate was reignited around the ethics of our political finance rules that allow unlimited corporate and union money to flow into party coffers

As we come to the end of 2016, I have found myself thinking about the reasons that I chose to run in the first place, the work I have been able to do as MLA and the road ahead for our province.

For 25 years, I had built my career as a scientist. I advised governments of all levels on climate policy that would support the transition to a strong, low-carbon economy and then watched as politics and the pursuit of power got in the way of progress. In 2012, I decided to run for office to show that it didn’t have to end that way – and I believe this year is an example of that.

This spring, I tabled a bill that requires all post-secondary institutions to have policies addressing the epidemic of sexualized violence on campuses. It became the first opposition bill in over 15 years to be supported by government and passed into law. This progress was made possible through collaboration and hard work.

Yet too often we see important issues immediately politicized by a two-party system that cares more about scoring points than advancing sound policy.

Perhaps the best example is corporate and union donations. In 2016, a major debate was reignited around the ethics of our political finance rules that allow unlimited corporate and union money to flow into party coffers. Businesses shouldn’t have to buy access to government to be heard, and British Columbians shouldn’t have to worry that their voice matters less than the voices of special interests.

Yet instead of taking clear and decisive action on this issue, the establishment parties make political calculations to suit their own interests. The BC Liberals have suggested nothing is wrong, even as every other jurisdiction in Canada is making much-needed reforms. The BC NDP has committed to taking action only if it is elected.

If we truly believe that private interests shouldn’t have a majority stake in our politics, then we shouldn’t wait to take action. That is why in early fall 2016, the BC Green Party announced that we would act unilaterally and no longer accept any corporate or union donations.

Critics of this decision argued that we would cripple our campaign’s funding structure. But since making the change, our fundraising has increased by 256%.

People are craving this type of principled leadership, and this is particularly important in our provincial economy.

Once again this year, the BC Liberals continued to bet our economic future on liquefied natural gas (LNG). It has been clear for many years that the Asian market cannot support this expansion, because it is already saturated with exports from Australia, the United States and Russia.

Yet still the government moves us down this path. In so doing, it is missing the opportunity to lead the economic trends that will define the 21st century: clean tech, high tech, the creative economy and more efficient and sustainable resource development that includes the production of value-added products and services. The economic potential in these industries far outweighs what little gains can be made with an expanded LNG industry. They also offer us enormous environmental and social goods: a cleaner environment, more jobs and new revenue streams closer to home.

Over the coming months, I will be laying out a new vision for B.C. – one that seeks to build on our strengths with a strong economic vision. British Columbians need a party that breaks new ground and sets its sights on the best possible future. I want to take us there. I hope that this May, you will join me. 

Andrew J. Weaver is a climate scientist and leader of the Green Party of British Columbia.