The British Columbia Green Party just made history, voters in the riding of Oak Bay-Gordon Head elected Andrew Weaver, Canada Research Chair in Climate Modelling and Analysis at the University of Victoria, and a lead author for a chapter of the IPCC AR4, to the Legislative Assembly.
Andrew Weaver is the first Green party member ever to be elected to the legislative Assembly; his election continues the trend started by Elizabeth May, who was the first ever federal Green party member to be elected to the Canadian Parliament in the 2011 election.
Aside from the historic aspect of having a green party member elected to government, an aspect I find more important is having a practising scientist working in the Legislative Assembly. Scientists, often look at the world through a different lens; a lens that gives them a unique perspective and the ability to find innovative solutions to difficult problems. But this is a lens that is underrepresented in most governments and though it is still underrepresented here in British Columbia, Andrew Weaver’s victory ensures that the scientific lens will be a little more represented going forward. A trend I hope catches on elsewhere.
In the end, despite polls showing that the left-of-centre NDP had a sizeable lead, the right-of-centre BC Liberals retained their majority in the legislative assembly. The NDP retained their status as official opposition.
What is perhaps of more interest to readers of Planet3.0 is what the BC election will mean for climate policy.
In 2008 the BC Liberals (which are not affiliated with the federal Liberals) introduced North America’s first revenue neutral Carbon tax. This was a dramatic turnaround for the Liberals; before introducing the tax they were not seen as a government that cared for the environment, quite the opposite actually. In the 2009 election the NDP, who generally had the support of environmental organizations, ran an ‘axe the tax’ campaign to repeal the carbon tax, this caused a dramatic reversal which saw the BC NDP with the lose that environmental support and subsequently lose the election.
After the defeat the NDP learned to accept the tax. So this time around there was little chance that the carbon tax would be repealed. In fact the only party who wanted to repeal the carbon tax was the BC Conservatives (which are not affiliated with the federal Conservatives), but their support in the election was minimal and they failed to win any seats.
That being said none of the parties were talking about increasing the carbon tax which currently sits at $30/tonne.
The other major climate related issue affecting BC are the pipeline proposals to transport diluted bitumen from the Alberta tar sands to the BC coast.
The BC Liberals have said that since BC is taking on most of the risk of spills, BC should receive a decent chunk of the revenue generated by the pipelines. That proposal has been flatly rejected by Alberta, so there is little chance the BC government will accept the pipelines. But the truth is that the Government of British Columbia, strangely, doesn’t have much of a say in either approving or disapproving the pipeline proposals.
In Canada pipelines fall under federal jurisdiction, and the Canadian Government has essentially rewritten the entire canon of Canadian environmental law in order to ensure that the pipelines are approved. Currently the biggest hurdle to the pipelines are the various First Nations groups that are opposed to having the pipeline traverse their territories. Their opposition could easily tie up the pipeline proposals in court for years.
Ultimately this election, aside from Andrew Weaver’s win, wasn’t really about climate change. British Columbia is already ahead of the curve in regards to climate policy and it seems as if there is little appetite from our politicians to move even further ahead of everyone else.