Green Party leader Andrew Weaver walks to Gordon Head Middle School to vote. (Arnold Lim/Black Press) VICTORIA, B.C. May 8, 2017.
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Green Party leader Andrew Weaver walks to Gordon Head Middle School to vote. (Arnold Lim/Black Press) VICTORIA, B.C. May 8, 2017.

ELECTION 2017: Could B.C. get a third official party?

B.C. Greens could see benefits by reaching four elected MLA’s in the Legislative Assembly.

Official party status could mean more ‘aura,’ for the B.C. Greens.

Ballots are being cast with only hours remaining before the next B.C. government is revealed, and when the dust settles there could be another officially recognized political party in Canada’s westernmost province. Norman Ruff, an associate professor emeritus in political science at the University of Victoria, said under the provincial Constitution Act, a party with four elected members receives official party status in the Legislative Assembly. Doing so, he said, could be a step forward for the Green party.

“(When) you are a leader of a recognized party, with that recognition it increases the senses of legitimacy of the party,” the 40-year Victoria resident said. “It’s up to you how you get to use it, but there is a little bit of an improved aura, (an) enhanced status.”

If four BC Green MLA’s are elected on May 9, all would receive a bigger salary than if three or less were elected. The leader would receive an additional 25 per cent (approximately $26,002.42) in salary and the three other MLA’s would take 10 per cent increases of $10,400.97 for duties as the third party house leader, the party whip and party caucus chair.

A political scientist of 50 years, Ruff said there could be numerous other advantages on top of increased salaries. Benefits include increased party finances, and perhaps most importantly, the ability to be next in line to the leader of the opposition in asking questions of the government. With only one elected member for the B.C. Greens, party leader and Oak Bay-Gordon Head MLA Andrew Weaver may not speak every question period.

“From the public’s perspective, where they would see it, is in question period,” he said. “That’s when people are really paying attention within the Legislative Assembly, when you have been recognized as an official party.”

Ruff said Weaver’s single seat has already enhanced the standing of the party in the public eye, going from no seats to one at the last election in 2013. And if they were to take four seats, it would further opportunities to display their “talents” and is “something they can potentially build on.” He wasn’t however, ready to predict it would actually happen.

“There is a very realistic possibility of getting to three, but the fourth one (might be) a bridge too far. That would be my take on it,” he said. “(But) a very real chance of of getting two companions.”

Ruff pointed to Adam Olsen in the riding of Saanich North and the Islands and Sonia Furstenau in the Cowichan Valley as potential Green party members to win, but said there could be another situation where the B.C. Greens could take a step forward without gaining official party status.

“If it went from one to three (seats) and it was a minority government, that would actually give them more power. That would be an even better outcome for them, from the short run perspective,” he said.

In that situation, he said the minority government may need to work with the third party, giving them more of a voice than in a majority government.

BC Votes 2017

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