By Roy L Hales
Though still nominally premier, Christy Clark knows her government’s days are numbered. If she doesn’t resign, the BC Liberals will be toppled by a non confidence motion when the provincial legislature reassembles in June. Clark intends to continue as Leader of the Opposition. So what does the NDP-Green agreement mean for British Columbians?
What Does The NDP-Green Agreement Mean for British Columbians?
“The Lieutenant-Governor’s decision would be, should my government not meet the test of confidence in the House … she would ask, I think, the NDP, as the party that has the second-largest number of seats, whether they can govern, but she will make that decision,” said Clark.
Andrew Weaver responded, “I welcome Premier Clark’s announcement today that she intends to recall the legislature as soon as possible, so that we can move forward with creating a stable minority government that delivers on key issues for British Columbians. What is most important for me in her statement was that the Premier Clark has signalled her willingness to work across party lines as we move forward. This new form of politics is what voters asked for in this election, and we are committed to doing our part to make that happen. Our agreement to support a B.C. NDP government is an important aspect of collaboration in this new political era, but cross-partisan work is not limited to it.”
On his website, British Columbia’s next premier wrote, ” …To everyone who has emailed, tweeted, called, messaged or signed a petition in the last few weeks to tell us about the kind of government they want to see: please know that we’ve heard you loud and clear. This deal is happening because of you …'”
John Horgan also published the full text of the NDP-Green agreement.
Many of the specific trends were already expected.
Noticeably absent from the agreement is any reference to “natural gas” or “LNG.”
The Green party is opposed to a massive build out of the “LNG industry that would (if it ever came to fruition) almost double BC’s emissions.”
- “Projects must offer jobs and training for British Columbians, especially jobs for local people.
- The people of BC must get a fair return for our resources.
- Projects must secure full partnerships with local First Nations.
- Projects must complete a made-in-BC environmental assessment, and achieve the highest environmental standards while respecting our commitments to combating climate change.”
The Government-in-waiting intends to invest heavily in education, fast tracking “enhancement to K-12 education.” They also intend to improve access, and reduce the cost, of post secondary education.
Many point to housing and residential construction, rather than fossil fuel investments like LNG, as the cornerstone of Clark’s economy. Between 2012 and 2016, the number of new housing starts rose from 27,465 to 41,843 a year. Vancouver’s housing prices reached all time highs. The Liberal party benefitted, as 7 of their 10 largest donors are real estate development companies. British Columbia obtained $1.15 billion from the Property Transfer Tax in 2015. According to Huffington Post, “25% of that came from transactions in Vancouver alone. If that $1.15 billion was reduced significantly, it would blow a massive hole in the provincial budget.” No wonder the government waited until August 2016 before taking action.
The Green party’s platform approaches this problem from a different angle (p 21), “The availability of affordable housing is an issue for the working poor, welfare recipients and people who are seeking a place to rent. Lack of affordable housing has many consequences, including out-migration of the young, difficulty in retaining key employees, long commutes and tra c conges on, as well as the rise of illegal suites in detached homes, and young adults remaining in the family home into their late twenties.”
The new BC government promises to fight the housing crises by “increasing supply of affordable housing and take action to deal with the speculation and fraud that is driving up prices.”
Investing In The Province’s Infrastructure
They also intend to “improve transit and transportation infrastructure in cooperation with the Mayors’ Council and the federal government to reduce emissions, create jobs and get people home faster.”
This was already in the NDP platform (p 51), which predicts “96,000 construction jobs while we build new roads, schools, hospitals, housing and public transit.
Raising the Minimum Wage
An arms length Fair Wages Commission will be tasked with finding ways forwards for a $15 per hour minimum wage.
Though it stopped short of an outright ban on corporate and union campaign donations, the new government will ban such contributions from non-residents. It will also review the Lobbyists Registration Act and increasing penalties for violations under the act
The NDP will introduce legislation calling for a referendum on proportional representation to be held in the fall of 2018.
If this system had been in place during the last election, between 10 and 12 Green MLAs would have been elected. This would also make it very difficult for the BC Liberals to once again win a majority of seats in the legislature, as they have not received more than 46% of the popular vote since 2001.
Though British Columbians have previously rejected proportional representation, a recent Ipsos poll reports that 54% are now favourable and only 20% opposed.
British Columbia’s carbon tax rates will once again increase every year. Premier Clark put a stop to this practise, initiated by her predecessor, shortly after she took office. The new government intends to increase the province’s carbon tax by “$5 per tonne, per year.”
The Rights Of Indigenous Peoples
The Green and NDP caucuses both “support the adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission calls- to-action and the Tsilhqot’in Supreme Court decision. We will ensure the new government reviews policies, programs and legislation to determine how to bring the principles of the Declaration into action in BC.”
Site C Dam
Though Andrew Weaver has long opposed the controversial Site C Dam, he agreed to the NDP position that the project be sent to the BC Utilities Commission (BCUC) for a review of its’ economic viability and environmental consequences.
This is something the Clark Government refused to do, most likely because the BCUC turned the project down twice in the 1980s.
Horgan told reporters, “We’re not going to stop work at Site C while that review takes place, but we have a six-week and a three-month time frame for a preliminary response and a final response and we’re going to get at that as quickly as possible.”
Kinder Morgan’s Pipeline Expansion
One clause of the agreement will lead to conflict with the federal government. The British Columbian government in waiting pledged to “immediately employ every tool available” to “stop expansion of Kinder Morgan pipeline, the seven-fold increase of tanker traffic on our coast and the transportation of raw bitumen through our province.”
This prompted Premier Rachel Notley to issue a press release stating:
” … Provinces do not have the right to unilaterally stop projects such as Trans Mountain that have earned the federal government’s approval. This is a foundational principle that binds our country together. There are no legal tools available to provinces to stand in the way of infrastructure projects that benefit all Canadians.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau echoed this opinion at a press conference in Rome, where he told reporters, “Regardless of a change in government in British Columbia, the facts and evidence do not change.”
According to Business Vancouver, British Columbia might employ every tool available to stop the pipeline, “but the toolkit isn’t in your possession – it belongs principally to Ottawa and the courts, even if you deny permits temporarily.”
Clean Tech Sector Enthusiastic
Some of the first responses from British Columbia’s Clean tech sector are favourable.
“The new government must reverse the trend of inadequate clean growth policies that we saw under the B.C. Liberals’ watch. We’re pleased that both the NDP and Greens promised to address B.C.’s rising carbon pollution and build a strong and resilient economy. Raising the level of ambition of climate action in B.C. is imperative for the province to secure economic prosperity, protect our families and communities, and do its part in reducing Canada’s carbon pollution.,” said Josha MacNab, B.C. director at the Pembina Institute.
“Our analysis has shown that British Columbia would see 270,000 new jobs created in the next decade if the government implements a well-designed clean growth and climate strategy, as the NDP and Greens have committed to do,” said Merran Smith of Clean Energy Canada.
Both parties agreed to have all of their members at every sitting of the legislature, a necessity when they have only one more seat than the BC Liberals.
Despite their past emphasis on an MLA’s first loyalty being to their local constituents, the Greens agreed to vote as a unified caucus.
They have agreed to not “vote non-confidence” as long as the NDP remain faithful to their side of the agreement.
In return, the government in waiting promises to adopt a policy of “good faith and no surprises” with their Green allies. The Premier’s office will hold regular consultations with the Green caucus and leader, prior to adopting any major policy or budgetary measures. The NDP will also provide unprecedented “access to key documents and officials.”
This is not a true coalition. The Greens did not receive a cabinet or any commitment to future cooperation beyond being consulted, but it is probably the best deal the Green could hope for. And the NDP promise to not request a dissolution of the legislature during the four year term of the agreement.
Photo Credit: BCNDP Leader John Horgan stops off at the IOUE training facility – courtesy the BC NDP (CC BY SA, 2.0 License).