Weaver brings scientific approach to politics

B.C.’s first-ever Green MLA may be on political leave from his position as a UVic professor, but Andrew Weaver doesn’t plan on leaving scientific research at the university. Instead, he hopes to bring an evidence-based approach to legislature and provincial policy debates during his time in office.

“It’s important that you formulate policy based on evidence,” says Weaver. “I don’t think we’re seeing enough of that. In fact, I don’t think we’re seeing much of that. We’re seeing just rhetoric, an ideology.”

Andrew Weaver was elected to represent Oak Bay-Gordon Head, taking Liberal incumbent Ida Chong’s seat in the May 14, 2013 provincial election. Weaver is a climate scientist and professor at UVic who was named the Deputy Leader to B.C.’s Green Party Leader Jane Sterk, who lost in her riding in Victoria-Beacon Hill but remains at the forefront of the party.

Weaver wasted no time in calling Christy Clark and the B.C. Liberals’ plan to produce and export liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Asian markets “pipe dreams” soon after he was sworn in. In an interview with the Martlet, however, he emphasized that attacking and vying for speaking time in legislature is not on his agenda.

“I have a lot of respect for the whole legislative structure, and so I’m going to listen a lot,” says Weaver, noting that his staff was busy doing background research at parliament before legislature sat for the first time on June 26, 2013 so that Weaver can learn the process and make points when it will be the most effective.

One of the areas Weaver plans to question is that of revenue projections made by the Liberals on LNG exports in B.C., an issue he has prioritized as an MLA and in his research and publications.

“B.C. does not have any LNG capacity yet. The U.S. could start shipping from existing facilities if they want and Australia is already concerned about the potential collapse of the market [due to oversupply] and are not going forward with a number of projects,” says Weaver, who also notes that Russia, China and Qatar have significant natural gas reserves and the existing infrastructure to export it, unlike B.C.

The International Energy Agency says that the many uncertainties in the global LNG market this year and in 2014, including Japanese nuclear policy, Chinese purchase agreements and liquefaction project delays and approvals in Australia and North America, will result in a tight market as demand outweighs supply.

The 2011 World LNG Report by the International Gas Union, which advocates natural gas in the world energy market, noted that recent discoveries in Eastern Africa and Eastern Mediterranean countries show new frontiers in LNG exports, adding competition on the supply side of LNG.

“To be told in British Columbia that somehow we’re special amongst this massive world of natural gas suppliers is a bit irresponsible,” says Weaver.

Rather than putting such heavy focus on natural gas in B.C., Weaver would like to see investment in the clean technology sector.

“We’re already seeing it in the U.S. as they move forward to actually create green jobs, which is what we should be doing in B.C.,” says Weaver, “but we’re stuck in this mentality that somehow here all we’re good at is hewing wood and drawing water, and now it’s drilling for oil and gas and shipping bitumen and LNG.”

“Where we were special is in our very intelligent workforce; we have very educated people.”

Reports by accounting firm KPMG in 2011 and 2013 found that there are 202 clean technology companies in B.C., but that industry growth is being stunted by uncertainty in the government’s direction. The “Cleantech Report Card for B.C.” called for all levels of government to enhance research and development grants, incentives and funding for green technology.

Weaver hopes to address both province-wide and constituents’ issues — the latter of which is top priority to the Green MLA — through collaboration.

“I’ll do what I can. I said all through [the campaign], that I’ll work with whatever party forms government; that’s the Liberals. There are good people in all parties, and we just have to ensure that people are being held accountable for what they say.”

Though it may be a daunting task for one Green representative, who is technically considered an independent, Weaver’s enthusiasm will provide a colourful third party voice in provincial politics.

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