Andrew Weaver went from wimp to warrior in this week’s televised leaders debate and it could have a big impact on the outcome of the B.C. election on May 9.
The Green party leader was curiously passive in last week’s radio debate, refusing to engage NDP Leader John Horgan, and even raising his hand like a schoolchild when he wanted to say something.
That all changed during Wednesday’s TV rumble when Weaver came out swinging, attacking both Horgan and Liberal Leader Christy Clark with equal ferocity.
But did you notice Clark was smiling through a lot of it? She may not have liked it when Horgan criticized her record in office, but she sure liked it when the Green leader crossed swords with their mutual NDP enemy.
Weaver and Horgan went at it with gusto, even bickering over who had the biggest turnouts at their respective campaign rallies in the debate’s most infantile moment.
Clark just shook her head, grinned and let them have at it, saying Horgan and Weaver were both tax-and-spend politicians who would drive the B.C. economy into the ditch.
“I tried to stay focused despite all the yelling and spending by the gentlemen,” she said.
The truth is she loved all the yelling because it improves her chances to hang onto power, despite the Liberals running a lacklustre campaign and trailing in the polls.
For one thing, the Horgan-Weaver scrap allowed her to look calm, cool and collected by comparison, even though she can be just as yappy and scrappy as either of them.
But I think the main reason the Liberals are pleased is that any sign of life by Weaver and the Greens creates the tantalizing opportunity of a left-wing vote split.
The Greens hate being called “left wing,” insisting their supporters come from all points on the political spectrum. The Greens say they’re taking away support from both the NDP and the Liberals, too.
But the Liberals believe a resurgent Green party hurts the New Democrats disproportionately more — something clearly evident when Horgan suggested a Green vote could actually help Clark.
“Are the Greens in this to win this, or to keep the Liberals in power?” Horgan asked.
Weaver was later furious over the remark.
“It’s actually an offensive argument,” Weaver said. “British Columbians know what they’re doing. I trust British Columbians to vote for who they want — to vote for something instead of against something.”
But the numbers don’t lie. Just check the results of the last election.
In 2013, the Liberals elected a dozen MLAs in closely contested ridings where the combined NDP-Green vote was larger than the winning Liberal vote. In other words, if all the Green voters in those ridings had voted for the NDP instead, Clark would have lost, and Adrian Dix would be the NDP premier running for re-election today.
The Liberals know this — and are secretly thrilled at Weaver’s debate performance, hoping he steals just enough NDP votes again to let Clark repeat her 2013, split-the-difference victory.
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