5 min

Why I’m torn between the BC Greens and the NDP

Horgan and Weaver both impressed me on LGBT questions and broader social change. So who gets my vote?

Having interviewed NDP leader John Horgan in January, Xtra hosts Isolde N Barron and Peach Cobblah sat down for a Facebook live interview with Green leader Andrew Weaver, above, on May 2, 2017. Credit: Robin Perelle/Daily Xtra

For the first time in ages, I’m politically torn.

Though I pride myself on being non-partisan, election after election I tend to find the NDP’s platform most closely matches my own values of social equality and resource sharing.

But this time, there are two BC parties prioritizing the kind of society I want to live in, and I’m a bit stumped as I head towards the ballot box.

Xtra invited all three major party leaders to join us, each for their own hour-long Facebook live interview dedicated to our LGBT community and hosted by two of my favourite drag queens.

Premier Christy Clark’s people never accepted our invitation, despite a few friendly if noncommittal exchanges by phone and email, but NDP leader John Horgan and Green leader Andrew Weaver happily agreed to take our community’s questions.

Both Horgan and Weaver were great sports, embracing our wig-wearing slogan makeover with good humour and humility. Both candidates struck me as sincere and offered thoughtful rather than canned answers to our questions. Both arrived on time with almost no entourage and were as comfortable chatting with the queens off camera as they were on (though with Isolde and Peach’s charm, who could resist them anyway?).

And both candidates say they want to change our province into the kind of equitable, generous, diverse and respectful society that I want to live in.

So who gets my vote?

Both Horgan and Weaver portray themselves as outsiders, as accidental politicians who come to the fray by passion and principle, rather than political opportunism.

Horgan, who has worked in several industries including forestry and construction and who was raised with three siblings by a single mother after his father died when he was a baby, believes the role of government is to help others. He says he wants to ensure “that everyone is comfortable in British Columbia. I have been very fortunate in my life and I want to pay that forward. And when I see bullying, when I see discrimination, when I see hate — I want to resist that,” he adds.

Weaver, who won the Greens’ first seat in the BC legislature last election in 2013, is a climate change scientist and a professor at the University of Victoria, who says he never expected to go into politics but couldn’t stand by and watch what was happening without at least trying to make a difference.

“If you’re not engaged in our democracy, then you only have yourself to blame for what we do,” he says he repeatedly told his students, before taking his own advice and deciding to run.

Watch our full Facebook live interview with Andrew Weaver, above. (Angelina Cantada/Daily Xtra)

Both candidates believe the provincial government needs to change and that the people of BC are ready for change after 16 years of BC Liberal rule. Both say their party should be the agent of that change.

Though details differ, both parties’ platforms promise to address the affordable housing crisis, reduce poverty and shrink the disparity between the wealthiest and poorest people in this province, eliminate MSP premiums, subsidize childcare, bring back the Human Rights Commission, better fund education at all levels, and prioritize mental health and addiction services, among other socially progressive policies.

On the specifically queer questions that we asked, both candidates were equally neck-in-neck.

On PrEP, both Horgan and Weaver emphasize the importance of preventive medicine and promise to cover the costs of Truvada as a pre-exposure prophylaxis for gay men and others who want affordable access to a daily pill to protect themselves from HIV.

“Your ability to pay for this shouldn’t be a barrier to access,” Weaver says.

“Because whenever we can find ways to make people’s lives safer, why wouldn’t we invest in that?” Horgan asks.

On education both agreed that all schools should comply with the BC Human Rights Code and protect LGBT students, and offered complimentary suggestions on how to get there.

Horgan promised to supply resources to districts and teachers so they’ve got the means, support and training to effectively implement the government’s new mandatory policy. Weaver promised to withhold government funding from any independent schools that refuse to comply.

“If you’re not going to share the values of society, then frankly public funding should not be there for you,” he says.

Watch our full Facebook live interview with John Horgan, above. (Angelina Cantada/Daily Xtra)

On trans rights, they offered thoughtful though somewhat different answers.

Now that protection for trans people is enshrined in BC law, we asked each candidate how we move from those rights to cultural change that embraces gender diversity. Both emphasized the need for better education to value diversity from the earliest age.

Horgan also emphasized the importance of allowing people their own beliefs but meeting those beliefs with consequences should they turn into discriminatory acts, to slowly modify bias over time, without hardening resistance.

“We, as the state, have a responsibility to educate, and that starts in the school system. When it becomes second-nature, commonplace, you don’t think about it. That’s what we want in our society,” he says. “But you can’t get there by the state forcing people to think a certain way. That leads then to resistance, and the response is Trump.”

Weaver likens it to debates over climate change. “Sometimes people have faith-based belief systems that contradict with societal values and norms,” he says.

“I worked in the area of climate change. There are people out there who don’t believe the world is warming. They don’t believe that thermometers exist. It’s remarkable. So my approach would be: rather than confronting them in an adversarial manner — because when you’re up against a faith system you can never get them to change their mind — you show them the evidence as to why this is such an important challenge, and it is really an opportunity,” he says.

“I think the best way would be to show them the positive values of acceptance and diversity because it’s so rewarding,” he adds.

Really, I’d very much like to see both these leaders get reelected. Maybe even work together to lead this province forward.

We asked Weaver if the Greens have always been so progressive. He says the party’s environmental policies are already known but people kept asking where they stand on the economy, hence the emphasis this election on the socioeconomic parts of their platform.

In other words, the Greens had to broaden their policy if they wanted to appeal to a broader base of constituents. I give them full credit for embracing such a progressive vision of society, but I can’t help but wonder if their commitment might have differed had the NDP, rather than the Liberals, been in power for the last 16 years. Up against that status quo, I wonder what change the Greens might have pushed for? Maybe I’m just cynical.

So who gets my vote?

Should I choose the party with a long-standing history of supporting the marginalized and prioritizing a more equitable society? Or should I choose the untested but seemingly progressive fresh voice of social and environmental change?

In my traditionally NDP East Vancouver riding, I will cast my ballot for the NDP and hope they keep that seat and win a majority on May 9 — even as I root for Weaver and the Greens to make a breakthrough and breathe some much needed fresh air into our legislature.