Bryce Casavant, the NDP candidate for Oak Bay – Gordon Head, has accused incumbent MLA and B.C. Green Party leader Andrew Weaver of “abandoning” the community, a charge Weaver has denied.
“He [Weaver] has actually abandoned his community,” said Casavant in an interview when asked about campaigning against a party leader with a prominent provincial profile.
The fact that Weaver gets more attention on television does not mean that he has been an effective MLA, said Casavant.
“[Weaver] is basically an independent in the legislature,” he said. If Casavant were elected, he said he would become part of a New Democratic team, and therefore more effective.
While Casavant later admitted “abandoned” could be too harsh a description, he insisted that Weaver was not spending enough time in the riding because of his provincial commitments as leader of the B.C. Greens. “There is a possibility for his support to collapse, if he [Weaver] doesn’t spend more time in the riding,” he said.
Weaver said it was “pretty rich” and “ironic” for somebody who “parachuted” into Oak Bay – Gordon Head from mid-Island without ever having lived in the riding to accuse him of abandoning Oak Bay, a community where he was born, went to high school and spent a large part of his adult working life.
“It is an act of desperation,” said Weaver, who suggested Casavant made the claim in light of recent polls that show the Greens in first place on Vancouver Island among the three major parties.
If Casavant were familiar with the riding, he would know that Oak Bay – Gordon Head has had a “rich tradition” of being represented by a party leader, said Weaver, pointing to the late Scott Wallace, who held the seat between 1969 to 1977.
First elected as a member of the governing Social Credit party, Wallace broke with it to sit as an independent before crossing the floor in January 1972 to join the B.C. Conservatives, which elected him their leader in 1973.
Alex Dutton, who is running for the BC Liberals, said she is not sure whether Weaver has abandoned the community as Casavant has claimed and acknowledged a “name recognition gap” when running against a provincial leader.
“I have been asked on the door step, ‘You seem like a fantastic candidate, why would you choose to run in this riding?’ And my response is always, ‘This is where I was born and raised,’” she said.
All 87 ridings boil down to one question, said Dutton. “Who is going to deliver for my community?” she said. Dutton said Weaver’s current focus, however, is on being party leader and gaining more seats for his party.
“I think Mr. Weaver is using Oak Bay – Gordon Head to launch this party platform, and I don’t think the people of Oak Bay – Gordon Head should be taken for granted,” she said.
Weaver said in an interview that he did not become leader of the B.C. Greens until three years into his four-year mandate as MLA because he wanted to focus on his obligations as a local MLA.
Weaver also rejected the criticism that he has been ignoring local voters. Weaver said he campaigned in the riding as recently as Monday and makes it a point to return to home following his travels through the province on behalf of the party and candidates.
“I live here,” he said. “I spent virtually every night in my own bed.”
Weaver said he has attended all three all-candidate meetings so far and plans to attend future ones scheduled for April 27, May 1 and May 4.
Dutton acknowledged Weaver’s local roots and his presence in the riding, but nonetheless insisted that she would be a more effective representative, pointing to measures in the Green’s platform that would make it more expensive to buy, own and sell a home in the riding.