Three seats are no mandate for the BC Green Party

Plain Rhetoric
By Bill McQuarrie
May 30, 2017 - 5:00am

KAMLOOPS — Note: This column was written prior to Monday's announcement of an agreement between the BC Green Party and the BC NDP.

Three seats do not a government make and while I’m delighted the Green Party made such huge strides, I’m concerned they may think they are actually government. They’re not, but could and should be part of a robust system of checks and balances. Let me explain.

Partisan politics in BC has, over the past decade or two, taken on the tribal-styled American phenomena of blind obedience and faith in a political dogma that many don’t even question. A cult-like following of uniformity of opinion, belief without question and regurgitated alternate facts designed solely to validate one’s belief.

Salvation is only available through obedience, proselytising and support of one of two political parties and once chosen. The other becomes the devil incarnate.  

When you think of our two party system, do you ever seriously question the motivation of your particular tribe and tribal leader? Do you talk to people not of your political faith and consider the numbers or ethical and social values of the decisions being made in your name?  

I sometimes wonder if everyone does. I mean, I often hear people tell me with great sincerity and concern that I only have to look back to the 1990s to see how badly the NDP managed the province.  

Wanting the benefit of their knowledge and insight, I ask them to explain the horrors they talk of, but in the end, they never can. It seems for some, knowledge is less important than faith in the party leader and the denial or worse yet, the ridicule of fact being the only defence.

Our parliamentary system with a majority government is pretty much a monarchy with the reigning party leader having absolute control over both party and province. Democracy is defined by rule of the party whip, who provides instruction on how members will vote, when they will speak and what they will speak of. The leader and the whip are never to be questioned or disobeyed and independent thought, forward thinking and constituency needs are discouraged.

If the leader wants a Site C dam built, an LNG port established or even wishes to raid the treasury of Crown corporations to support those decisions, then that is what will happen. And this is where the Green Party’s three seats kick in.

With a little less than 20 per cent of the popular vote, those three seats do not, by any stretch of the imagination, represent a plurality of opinion or consensus amongst BC voters. They do, however, represent what might best be described as the conscience of the province. Or, as mentioned at the beginning, a process and a party that can provide us with an arrangement of checks and balances.

With 80 per cent of the voters rejecting Andrew Weaver’s Green Party, it would be a disservice to his party and the voters for Mr. Weaver to impose his party’s platform upon the province as a condition of support. Ditto for the BC Liberals or NDP selling out simply for the sake of power. Imposing political will, drawing lines in the sand and demanding concessions are not the words of successful minority governments.

On the other hand, the Green Party has this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to demonstrate through example what governing should be all about. Minority governments are about compromise and, as such, become one of those rare occasions when the people of the province can benefit.

Policy is no longer dictated, consensus while still elusive becomes important, and contracts once secret are slowly peeled back and revealed. The party greed for private money is modified under closer and open examination. Creative accounting practices and insider deals slow down and possibly stop as the fear of discovery grows.  

These are the things the Green Party could, if it wanted to, change. However, it first has to decide if, like those before them, the allure and lust for power is more important than the principles that brought about those three seats.