I’ve mentioned before that I am very keen on the idea of electing more scientists to parliament. Scientists are imperfect of course, and some more imperfect than others, but the discipline involved in sifting evidence to reach conclusions seems to me very good training for government. That’s in addition to just having an understanding of the background to some pretty important issues.
However, while I think scientists would, on average, make good parliamentarians, there are certainly doubts about their campaigning skills. A tendency to want to wait until more evidence is in before committing oneself, for example, can be detrimental to winning votes. Moreover, science generally does not bring one into contact with large numbers of people in a limited geographic area that might build a campaign base the way say, owning a fish and chip shop does.
So it is with great delight that I note the election of Andrew Weaver to the British Columbia parliament. Naturally, as a Green I’m very excited at the first breakthrough to a Canadian provincial parliament (there is one Green in the national parliament, from a nearby electorate). But I’m even more excited by Weaver’s CV. IPCC lead author, fellow of the Canadian Royal Society. Author of 130 peer reviewed papers. This is serious scientific cred. The fact that he sued a denialist for defamation, rather than going into his shell as so many climate scientists have done when accused of fraud is a point in his favour as well.
None of this guarantees Weaver will be any good in parliament. Being an MP, particularly as the sole rep from your party, requires an unusual combination of skills; some people who have some of them in spades but lack others can crash and burn badly. But I think the potential for Weaver to set the place on fire is great. Given that the BC Greens have previously scored as high as 13% of the statewide vote without electing anyone, if Weaver can do well they could really shake things up next time. The party’s leader also got an impressive result, but fell short of being elected, while a third candidate got within 1.3% of the leader while still coming third. These two seats should be serious prospects next time if Weaver can enhance the Greens’ status.