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Building a glass house in the middle of The Zoo

Poor Andrew Weaver. Somebody forgot to tell B.C.'s star Green candidate that politics is a nasty business and only those with the thickest of skins survive.

They may have also neglected to mention that when you make damning allegations about someone and cast aspersions on the motives of others, it's best to have proof to back it up and not some muddled explanation instead.

Mr. Weaver caused quite a commotion this week when he suggested University of British Columbia academic Michael Byers had phoned him up a few months ago in an attempt to dissuade him from running for the Greens in Oak Bay-Gordon Head in the next election. Apparently Mr. Byers was concerned Mr. Weaver's candidacy might hurt the NDP's chances of taking the seat in next May's election. Which it very well could.

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It was on Twitter that Mr. Weaver, a University of Victoria climate scientist, first made the allegation. He said Mr. Byers had suggested to him there might be a deputy minister's job in an NDP administration if he stayed out of the race. There was also the clear insinuation that Mr. Byers was speaking with some authority on this issue – that this was the wish of the party and not some empty overture and offer.

It all sounded rather juicy until Mr. Byers stepped forward to provide his side of the story.

He admitted he had phoned Mr. Weaver, at the time a friend, to try to convince him not to run for the Greens. But at no time did he say he was calling on anyone's behalf, and at no time did he ever suggest that if he agreed not to run he could be the next deputy minister of the environment.

When Mr. Weaver went on Bill Good's CKNW radio talk show he did little to convince listeners he had the goods on Mr. Byers. On the contrary, he had to admit that Mr. Byers hadn't offered him any position. Nor did he have anything in the way of evidence to back his claims that Mr. Byers might have been speaking on behalf of the NDP. He recalled Mr. Byers saying he had the ear of Adrian Dix. Or maybe that was Mr. Weaver believing Mr. Byers had the ear of Adrian Dix and consequently, by association, concluded his friend was acting as some sort of emissary on Mr. Dix's behalf.

Yet despite not having a shred of proof that the NDP had anything to do with Mr. Byers' call, Mr. Weaver insisted on lecturing the party about playing dirty politics. Now that I think of it, Mr. Weaver may fit in perfectly in the B.C. legislature.

Mr. Weaver said he had no intention of publicly disclosing the contents of his conversation with Mr. Byers until he started getting attacked on Twitter for positions he'd taken on various issues. He said he'd been "tipped off" this was going to happen and it did "just like clock work."

Attacked for his stance on various issues? And this is some horrible crime? Mr. Weaver, if I may: You hope to enter politics where a politician's position on issues is often under attack and scrutiny and, yes, even on Twitter. You weren't being attacked and bullied by the NDP, as you suggested on the radio, you were being called out for your positions on a few issues by some supporters of the party. This is allowed in our democracy.

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I fear what will happen to Mr. Weaver should he pull off the upset of upsets and gets elected to the B.C. legislature, also known as The Zoo, also known as one of the noisiest, most acrimonious settings in Canadian politics. It's far away from the polite confines of academia to which Mr. Weaver has become accustomed.

Personally, I hope this is not the last we hear from Andrew Weaver, who is one of the most respected professors anywhere in his field. He has a lot to offer politics. But if he's ever going to make a contribution, he's going to need to grow a much thicker skin than the one he owns now.

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About the Author
National affairs columnist

Gary Mason began his journalism career in British Columbia in 1981, working as a summer intern for Canadian Press. More


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