B.C. Green Party leader Andrew Weaver.

No plan to change B.C. Green party name over federal rift on Israel: Weaver

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  • Sep. 14, 2016 1:00 p.m.

B.C. Green Party leader Andrew Weaver is further distancing himself from infighting at the federal Green Party over its adoption of a policy pushing for sanctions against Israel, but he rules out any name change for the provincial party, at least in the short term.

Weaver said he found it “bizarre” that he was publicly criticized in an open letter by 24 federal Green members, including three members of the party’s shadow cabinet who have since been fired by federal Green leader Elizabeth May.

“It looked to me like a group of individuals went rogue,” Weaver said in an interview, adding he supported May’s decision. “It is not relevant to British Columbia politics.”

The signatories of the letter called Weaver “misguided” for refusing to support the so-called BDS policy endorsing boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel that was passed at the federal Green convention over the summer.

Weaver said the federal party has been “hijacked” by a narrow interest group pushing the BDS policy.

May herself had threatened to quit the federal party over the issue but later relented.

A serious political party should not simply adopt the policies of an external activist group, Weaver said, adding the NDP is now on a similar path after voting to debate the activist-pushed Leap Manifesto for high-speed reform on environmental and social justice issues.

“As soon as a political party rallies behind the agenda of an outside entity it loses relevance,” Weaver said. “This is activism, it’s not politics. Politics requires a much more thoughtful approach to policy debate, not the kind ‘You’re with us or you’re against us’ type of mentality which was displayed here.”

Weaver said the federal Liberals, New Democrats and Conservatives all rejected the BDS movement, but said proponents then turned to the Greens as a vessel to advance it.

The policy passed in a contentious vote at the federal convention where May was cut off from speaking. She aims to reverse it at a special meeting in December.

Weaver suggested many backers of the policy legitimately want peace in the Middle East, but don’t comprehend the ramifications.

“When BDS essentially assigns the blame – all blame – to one side of this very complex issue, that’s not how you’re going to move forward, that’s not helpful for the international discourse.”

He emphasized the B.C. Green Party is not a provincial wing of the federal Green Party of Canada, unlike the federal and provincial NDP.

“I’ve got a lot of federal Liberals on my team who are members of the federal Liberal party but also members of the B.C. Green Party,” Weaver said, adding that’s not usually permitted when federal and provincial parties are linked.

As for changing the name of the B.C. Green Party to make the distinction clearer, he said that couldn’t happen before the next election and a future convention, and it isn’t an option he is championing.

“I’m not suggesting that we have a name change,” Weaver said. “I’m not going to lead that. I’m not going to fight it. I am going to listen to it.”

He said concerns about the Green name he has heard in the past have usually been that it doesn’t play well in resource-oriented regions such as the Peace River country.

“We’ve had a lot of people say ‘We love what you do as a party, but we have concerns about your name.’ So at some point maybe somebody is going to raise that at the next convention. Certainly nothing will happen before the next election.”

Weaver said he remains focused on positioning the B.C. Greens as a valid centrist option between the “extreme politics” of the NDP and BC Liberals.

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