B.C. New Democrats say they had nothing to do with an attempt to lure Green candidate Andrew Weaver to their cause, and deny even seeing the Greens as a threat to their success in the 2013 election.
"Political parties do not own votes between elections. You have to earn them," said NDP House Leader John Horgan, responding to questions about NDP wariness of the Greens, who do not have a seat in the B.C Legislature.
"We have to earn votes at the election in every constituency across B.C.," he said. "I am confident that when [voters] look at all of the options they will vote NDP."
Mr. Weaver revealed on Twitter on Wednesday night that former federal New Democrat Michael Byers had tried to talk him into switching over to the NDP during a September phone conversation after Mr. Weaver declared he was running for the B.C. Greens.
But Mr. Horgan flatly denied that Mr. Byers, a University of British Columbia political scientist and former NDP federal candidate in Vancouver Centre, was acting for the provincial NDP.
Mr. Horgan said that NDP Leader Adrian Dix was intent on a forthright pitch to increase political participation in B.C despite Mr. Weaver's allegation that Mr. Byers had offered him a role in an NDP government if he would switch sides.
"It is inconceivable that Adrian would advise anyone to go and discourage participation. Mr. Byers, if he felt that way, felt that way on his own accord and not on behalf of Mr. Dix and the NDP."
But Mr. Weaver, a prominent climate-change expert at the University of Victoria who is running for the Greens in Liberal-held Oak Bay-Gordon Head, stood by his allegation. Although the conversation took place months ago, Mr. Weaver said he was prompted to disclose it now as a result of Twitter attacks on his credibility this week by NDP supporters.
"What he was saying is the NDP perceive you as a threat within the province and would rather not have to deal with a Green Party and a Liberal Party," Mr. Weaver said, adding Mr. Byers said there were other ways to be effective in government.
Mr. Weaver said it is clear the NDP see the Greens as a threat.
"The Green Party would never be perceived of taking NDP votes or Liberal votes, but offering new voters and everyone a choice for difference," he said. "We're not here to split a vote, but to get votes from across the political spectrum."
Mr. Byers, who described Mr. Weaver as a friend until now, conceded he called Mr. Weaver when he heard he was running for the Greens and made clear he was calling on his own behalf and asked for the conversation to be considered confidential. He said Mr. Weaver agreed.
"I proceeded to express some surprise and disappointment with his decision because Andrew and I agree it's important to change the government in B.C., and I have a very strong view that dividing the opposition is not conducive to that goal," he said.
Mr. Byers said he wished Mr. Weaver well when it was clear he was sticking to his plans.
"That was it until yesterday," he said, adding Mr. Weaver misrepresented the content of the call.
Mr. Byers said the Greens are not a threat to the NDP. "Obviously any competition among opposition parties is something that will work to the advantage of the B.C. Liberals, but we are talking about a circumstance where the Greens do not hold a single seat in the legislature and they are very much in fourth place in the polls. Last time I checked, the B.C. NDP were ahead by about 20 per cent."
An Angus Reid Public Opinion poll released in November had the NDP out front with 47 per cent support compared with 29 per cent for the B.C. Liberals, 12 per cent for the B.C. Conservatives and 9 per cent for the Greens.
Green Leader Jane Sterk said the party is hoping to win a few legislature seats because of four-way splits with other parties. "We want to make first past the post work for us," she said. "On a four-way split, you could win on 30 per cent of the vote."