BC Greens leader Andrew Weaver: We’re giving people something to vote for

May 1 2017, 6:37 am

Ahead of the BC election, the Daily Hive editorial team has interviewed all three party leaders, to find out who they are, discuss the issues you care about most, and put your questions to them.

Our second interview was with Andrew Weaver, BC Greens leader, who spent an hour with us, discussing everything from the basic guaranteed income to Pokémon GO. Really.

Who is Andrew Weaver?

Weaver was born in Victoria; his mother was a Ukrainian refugee, his father a student.

“When I was in high school I was always weird…I was on the chess team and the rugby team. I never could be compartmentalized,” Weaver told Daily Hive.

He went on to study at UVic and UBC, where he earned a PhD in Applied Mathematics, the beginning of an academic career that would take him around the world.

He and his wife returned home to start a family, had a boy and girl, and he taught for 25 years at UVic. But, he says, he remained the same old Andrew.

“I’m not your ivory tower academic, because I liked to hang out and play hockey with people,” said Weaver. “I’m just a regular guy who was pretty good at physics and math.”

Specializing in climate science, Weaver was on former BC Liberal premier Gordon Campbell’s climate leadership team, and wrote four climate change scientific assessments for the UN.

Intergenerational equity

But everything changed when he started teaching a class at UVic, connecting the issue of global warming with inter-generational equity.

“Do we, the present generation, owe anything to future generations about the quality of the environment we leave behind?” said Weaver. “If the answer is no, then we shouldn’t care about this problem. If the answer is yes, we should.”

BC Greens leader Andrew Weaver at Daily Hive (Caley Dimmock/Daily Hive)

BC Greens leader Andrew Weaver at Daily Hive (Caley Dimmock/Daily Hive)

Weaver encouraged his students to get involved in politics. “Politicians cater to the demographic that votes,” he said.

But Weaver realized he was a hypocrite if he didn’t also step up.

So, in 2012, Weaver joined the BC Greens. Now 56, he’s been MLA of Oak Bay-Gordon Head on Vancouver Island since 2013, and leader of the party since 2015.

“I needed politics like I needed a shotgun blast to the head, it was not in my career path,” said Weaver. “But it doesn’t matter, because ultimately you have to live with yourself.”

For the first time, the BC Greens are running in almost all ridings, with Weaver’s platform focused on the future economy and supporting young people.

“We’re giving people something to vote for instead of vote against,” said Weaver. “We are offering a vision that I think young people can get behind.”

That vision includes a basic minimum income and a fair wages commission to raise the minimum wage and close the gap with liveable wages.

BC’s minimum hourly wage is $10.85, the third lowest in Canada and only half the liveable hourly wage in Vancouver of $20.64.

“All of a sudden you lose your salary. We don’t want you out on the streets. You’ve been paying taxes. We want to ensure you have an ability to live.”

A right to housing

The BC Greens are also offering protections to renters worried about renovictions and demovictions, or forced to renegotiate their rent every year.

But their most aggressive policies attack the lack of housing supply, raising the foreign buyers’ tax to 30%, and taxing real estate speculators.

“The supply is brutal,” said Weaver. “Everyone has a right to accommodation… Housing is not to be used as a speculative commodity, but somewhere to live.”

The BC Greens would also allow universities to build accommodation on campus, which Weaver says is the “single biggest bang for the buck we could have.”

“You pull [students] out of the towns, where they’re paying too much anyway, [you get] downward pressure on prices outside of the university and everybody wins.”

Weaver also plans to build 4,000 affordable homes, but recognizes it may not be as high as some people want. It’s the best they can do “with the money that we have,” he says.

Investing in innovation

In technology, the BC Greens are supporting emerging economies, like rideshare, which Weaver confirms would be brought in “right away. Probably in the fall of this year.”

BC Greens leader Andrew Weaver at Daily Hive (Caley Dimmock/Daily Hive)

BC Greens leader Andrew Weaver at Daily Hive (Caley Dimmock/Daily Hive)

Meanwhile, he says, the BC Greens’ whole platform is focused on the new, tech economy, recognizing the key is getting investment money right early on.

“What is critical is getting those ideas off the lab bench, out of the dorm rooms, into the market place,” said Weaver.

He says he’s spent four years meeting tech CEOs to figure out what needs to be done; as well, the BC Greens would set up an Emerging Economy Task Force to advise them in government.

“What you want to have is a body of expert advice that is non partisan, the best way to learn about what’s happening is to have the experts in the area.”

“I could tell you I’m level 30 on Pokémon GO but I couldn’t tell you that kind of geo-tagging was an emerging technology.”

Pokémon GO? Weaver explains he’s currently in a family competition against his grown son and daughter to see who can catch ‘em all. Ah.

Possibility of term limits

Of course, there are other, more political revelations which emerge, including a promise to hold a free vote on term limits in the legislature.

“I don’t believe people should be there for more than three terms. I think it’s unhealthy for democracy,” said Weaver. “Politics should be a sense of civic duty. Not a career path.”

As for the environment, Weaver jokes, “The Green Party doesn’t talk about that. We own that.”

But what of Site C and the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion, arguably the biggest environmental issues facing BC today, yet not mentioned in the platform.

Weaver says they were left out because he’s made his stance clear before and “in our platform, we try to articulate a new vision, not what we’ve been saying in the past.”

Nevertheless, he confirms the BC Greens would stop work on Site C.

“Immediately. Stop it. Cease work, on we go, this is ridiculous. We know we’re going to save billions of dollars by not building it. It makes no sense.”

As well, Weaver says, the BC Greens would fight to stop the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion, by backing First Nations’ court cases against its approval.

“We have a duty to step in and help in that regard and act as interveners,” said Weaver.

‘We’re not activists’

That’s going to be an uphill struggle, but perhaps the biggest challenge the BC Greens are facing is the idea they could never win an election.

Weaver disputes that, citing examples of parties with only a handful of seats winning a majority government, including Trudeau’s Liberals.

“Why would we never govern? Look at our team…They’re not activists,” said Weaver.

“You’ve got a bunch of professionals… We stepped into politics because we have the skill set to govern.”

BC Greens leader Andrew Weaver at Daily Hive (Caley Dimmock/Daily Hive)

BC Greens leader Andrew Weaver at Daily Hive (Caley Dimmock/Daily Hive)

Weaver also notes that almost 45% of eligible voters did not vote in the last BC election–and the Greens bring out new voters who have never voted before.

But can the BC Greens be trusted in government? Weaver points out that the BC Greens don’t accept corporate or union donations (the BC Liberals and BC NDP both do).

“We aren’t career politicians. That I think is important,” said Weaver, who says he takes the credibility and trust required of him as a scientist into politics.

“If I’m going to do something, I’ll do it and if I don’t do it, I hope to be held accountable for it.”

Above all, Weaver said, he is offering an alternative to politics as usual.

“This is the first time in a generation where there’s actually a third viable option. The first time in a generation that we can offer people something to vote for instead of against.

“If you want more of the same of a slightly different colour, vote strategically and fill your boots.”

“But if you actually want change that you can count on, real change, to putting youth first and foremost, we’re the only option.”

See also

Daily Hive is your home for BC Election coverage throughout the campaign period. To access our full BC Election coverage click here: Battleground BC.