It’s been just three weeks since the provincial elections, and the playing field still isn’t settled.
NDP leader John Horgan announced Monday they reached a support agreement with the three-member B.C. Green party.
That arrangement gives the NDP and Greens a combined total of 44 seats, one more than the 43-seat B.C. Liberals, who met in Vancouver Tuesday to determine their next steps.
Coming out of the Liberal huddle, Penticton MLA Dan Ashton wouldn’t speculate on how the NDP-Green agreement would affect governance of the province.
“You don’t decide the government on the steps of a hotel, you decide it in the legislature,” said Ashton, adding that when the legislature is recalled they will see how the NDP and Green plan to proceed. However, he hoped the parties could all work together.
“I am a firm believer in collaboration,” said Ashton, explaining that the members of the legislature were elected to serve the best interests of the people of B.C.
“I am looking forward to getting back to work,” said Ashton.
Tarik Sayeed, the Penticton NDP candidate for the May 9 election, noted the Liberals did not win the popular vote.
“The fact is 60 per cent of British Columbians voted overwhelmingly to replace Christy Clark with a new government that works better for people,” said Sayeed, He feels people voted for the government to work on issues like better schools, shorter healthcare wait times, protecting the environment and a sustainable economy with better paying jobs.
“That’s what this agreement delivers for people,” said Sayeed. “This is an incredible opportunity for teamwork on the issues that matter to British Columbians.”
As the incumbent government with the most seats, parliamentary tradition suggests that Lt. Governor Judith Guichon would offer Premier Christy Clark the first opportunity to recall the legislature and attempt to govern with a minority.
After the Tuesday meeting, Clark announced that the Liberals wouldn’t be stepping down to make way for the NDP to form government.
Combined, the NDP and Greens have enough votes to bring down the government with a no-confidence vote and if the government is defeated, Horgan would likely be offered an opportunity to govern with Green support before another election could be called. With either the B.C. Liberals or the NDP in charge, the government would be within a single vote of defeat.
Horgan and B.C. Green leader Andrew Weaver announced their agreement Monday, a “four-year framework” in which the Greens pledge to support an NDP government on confidence votes such as passing a budget and a bill to supply money to the government.
“We can have a stable minority government for four years with the support of B.C. Green MLAs on confidence and supply matters,” Weaver said.
The agreement is for confidence measures only, and is not a coalition, Weaver said. There would be no Green MLAs included in an NDP cabinet.
Details of the agreement, ratified Tuesday by the NDP caucus, includes reforming the electoral system, getting the influence of big money out of politics and reforming lobbying rules; enhancing K-12 education funding, child care; better transit; eliminating Medical Services Premiums; sending the Site C project to independent review and opposing the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion project
That project has been approved by both the B.C. and federal governments, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reaffirmed Monday that it is a matter of federal jurisdiction.
Horgan campaigned on a promise to use “every tool in the toolbox” to stop the twinning of the pipeline, which would increase crude oil tanker traffic in the Port of Vancouver to about one vessel a day.
That and other resource projects were likely sticking points in the B.C. Liberals’ discussions with the Greens for support in the minority parliament.
“In recent days, we have made every effort to reach a governing agreement, while standing firm on our core beliefs,” Clark said in a statement after the Green-NDP deal was announced.
Horgan struck a conciliatory tone in his remarks to NDP MLAs, 15 of whom are new to the legislature. He echoed Clark’s election-night comments that the nearly exact split in votes between the B.C. Liberals and the NDP is a message to all parties to work together.
“And it’s not just with Green MLAs, but with Liberal MLAs as well,” Horgan said. “I believe we have a unique opportunity, a historic opportunity to demonstrate, not just to British Columbians but to all Canadians, that people of good will come together.”