After more than 10 months of sitting as independent in Parliament, Blair Wilson is going Green.
This past weekend the Member of Parliament for West Vancouver, Sunshine Coast and Sea to Sky met with national Green Party leader Elizabeth May in Vancouver, and shortly afterwards announced his plans to sit as a Green when Parliament opens. If an election is called this week, he will run as a Green Party candidate.
Wilson says it was an easy decision to make, as the Green platform is similar to his own platform when running as a Liberal in 2006.
“I’ve been sitting as an independent for 10 or 11 months, so I’ve had ample opportunity to review my status and do some soul searching, discuss policies and platforms, and look at the various different parties,” he said. “(Elizabeth May) and I share the same values, the same common beliefs beyond simply protecting the environment.”
Wilson ran as a member of the Liberal Party in 2006, winning the riding by roughly 1,000 votes. He resigned from the party in October 2007 as a result of an Elections Canada investigation into his campaign spending. In December the Liberal Party renounced Wilson for not disclosing information to their federal green light committee that vets all candidates — a charge that Wilson denies. He was recently cleared of any wrongdoing by Elections Canada, but was not reinstated by the Liberal Party.
One of the reasons that the Green Party was so keen to have Wilson on board was that having a seat in Parliament is presumed to be a requirement for being invited to the federal leaders debate. Wilson says he is happy to make that possible.
“In the last election the Green Party had 1.5 million supporters, and they ran 308 candidates — one in every riding in Canada,” he said. “Still, the media and Prime Minister won’t allow Elizabeth to be represented at the national leaders debate. The last hurdle was to have a sitting Member of Parliament to represent the Green Party.”
Wilson breaks new ground as the first Green Party member to sit in Parliament, and he is looking forward to the next election.
“The Green Party has never been more prepared for an election as they are right now,” he said. “With the changes to the campaign finance rules, the Green Party received $1.75 a vote for the election, so they’ve managed to build up a sizable war chest.”
Although MPs get in trouble when they switch parties, Wilson says the response so far has been positive.
“I have Conservatives calling me that aren’t happy with how (Prime Minister Stephen) Harper is running the show, that they don’t want another deficit again and they lost money on trusts,” he said. “There are Liberals that still support me and that feel disenfranchised by the party. A good number of Green Party supporters are on board that helped me to win the election as a Liberal.”
Wilson says his experiences the past year have made him tougher, but he says he’s not jaded about politics or the challenge of being elected as a Green.
“I’ve always been that hardworking kid from North Van. I went to school on student loans and I had to work for everything,” he said. “While the last little while has been challenging, I’ve never given up, I’ve never quit representing this riding, and I still have the supporters that have stuck with me through thick and thin, and they’re battle-tested for this next election. I look forward to wearing the Green jersey and following through in the next election for the Green Party.”
Wilson would prefer not to run right away, and questions the reasons for calling an early election. He says Parliament has been effective in passing bills and that good work is still being done at the committee level away from the partisanship of the media, “sword rattling”, and question period in the House.
“When Harper says (government) is dysfunctional, when did it become dysfunctional? During the two-month summer break? If he was serious he would have said government was dysfunctional three months ago,” said Wilson.
“It’s all political rhetoric and spin, a brash politician who is breaking his own law. The thing that’s just amazing is that the first thing Harper did when he was elected was fix election dates, it was on his platform when he was elected, and now he’s trying to break his own law.”
While the Green Party didn’t fare that well in the last federal election, with the candidate placing fourth behind Wilson, Conservative Party candidate John Weston, and the NDP candidate at the time Judith Wilson. The Green Party is not without its supporters in Sea to Sky, as Green candidate Dennis Perry placed second in the riding in the last provincial election with more than 24 per cent of the popular vote.