This BC Green PR campaign could deliver coalition coagulation

At least Andrew Weaver is clear: he will keep opposing the party he will continue to support.

The BC Green Party leader is rather like the dog that chews your slippers out of fury, then brings them to you out of unconditional love.

Rarely a day passes without some fulminating pledge of denunciatory non-defeat of the NDP. 

It’s strange, bordering on something worth studying scientifically: Weaver was easier on Christy Clark when he had no trump card to play. The more power he holds, the less he appears to test it.

But we have long known that the NDP government could pretty well expropriate Weaver’s house, seize his assets, hack his social media accounts and portray him as a climate change denier, yet survive.

The Greens are hell-bent on securing a shot at PR – as in proportional representation for its brand’s growth. They want this shot, even if it might prove bad PR – as in public relations for its brand’s values.

Bit by bit, temporarily at least, party principles are corroding on the long and winding road.

Philosophical difference with the NDP on Site C? A mere momentary quibble. Perceived ride-sharing legislative stonewalling? Meh. Over-my-dead-body secret-ballot union votes? Whatever. Inertia on offshore real estate speculation? Right. Rental subsidies? Kill them, or we’ll complain.

This possible big PR prize has meant several forgone small prizes, leaving Weaver like that costumed player on the old Let’s Make a Deal show who keeps taking chances to get Door No. 3. It had better pay off for him, but I suspect this won’t go well, win or lose, given the steps we are taking toward it.

In an ideal world you would have ideal representation that reflected the wishes of voters. After all, when there are three or more viable parties or candidates, a victory with around 30% hardly suggests decisive support.

But the early critique of B.C.-style PR should give us pause.

Rather than seek a majority in a majority of ridings, or even a majority in all ridings, the government has said 50.1% of the total provincial vote (no matter the level of participation) will determine the result.

Rather than require people to come out and vote about how they will eventually vote, the government is permitting a mail-in system for arguably the most significant electoral change in Canadian history.

The populous Lower Mainland, even the super-populous Metro Vancouver region, could decide the outcome for the entire province. It would be proportional domination.

To stimulate discussion for public comment, Premier John Horgan has said he wants a two-part questionnaire: Do you want a change? If so, which of five choices might you like? Of those five choices, a curious couple aren’t offered: a regional offering and a rural-urban variety.

The final decision will rest with the cabinet. If the vote isn’t clearly supportive across the province – geographically and numerically – can it legitimately proceed?

What I can’t fully see is why the NDP sees self-interest. Here it is, one of two undisputed major parties, likely to come in and out of government over the decades as it has in the past, yet willing to open the door to third, fourth, fifth and other parties to do little other than grind down the gears of governments – including its own.

Certainly, the door PR opens might well be to an ethical, conscientious entity presenting a strong case for particular issues. But it also might well be to a party of intolerance or extremism that could hold the system hostage.

It’s curious at this juncture why we do not feel that in a two-party system that has grown to a three-party system there is not ample representation of views.

As the Horgan-Weaver alliance demonstrates – or at least could, if Weaver would stand up to Horgan on occasion instead of holding out for a system he does not so much now need – we do not live in a winner-take-all system when we enter minority governments that serve as strong substitutes for PR.

Coalition governments, as the people of Israel or Italy or more recently New Zealand can attest, are a different matter.

Kirk LaPointe is editor-in-chief of Business in Vancouver Media Group and vice-president of Glacier Media.