The Globe and Mail by Justine Hunter May 30, 2017
British Columbia will have a new government with a firm commitment to halting expansion of the Kinder Morgan pipeline or any other aimed at transporting raw bitumen through the province, according to the text of an agreement signed by the New Democrats and Greens.
Under a pact reached between the BC Greens and the NDP, both parties have agreed to “immediately employ every tool available” to stop the pipeline and the resulting tanker traffic increase. There were no details about how that would take place.
The agreement around Kinder Morgan was the centerpiece of a deal that will ensure the two parties can defeat the Liberals in a confidence motion and form a new government, which would immediately be at loggerheads with the federal Liberals and the neighbouring NDP in Alberta.
Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made it clear his government was committed to pushing through the project, while Alberta Premier Rachel Notley said there was no stopping the project.
The agreement also spells out a referendum next year on electoral reform, moving the province to a some form of proportional representation. It also promises to ban corporate and union donations to political parties.
The formal signing of the deal followed a news conference in which Premier Christy Clark said she would not immediately resign but would instead recall the legislature for a confidence vote. She acknowledged her government appeared destined to fall.
The BC Liberals were reduced to 43 seats in the May 9 election, one short of a majority, which prompted weeks of negotiations to win the Greens’ support in a minority legislature. The NDP have 41 and the Greens hold the balance of power with three.
The Greens’ impact on the NDP was immediately apparent. Though both parties campaigned in opposition to Kinder Morgan, they diverged on other environmental issues like a carbon tax.
Under the agreement released Tuesday, British Columbians will start paying $5 more starting next year.
During the campaign, the New Democrats had pledged to increase the tax over three years, beginning in 2020, to meet the federal target of $50 per tonne by 2022. The Greens campaigned on a platform to increase the carbon tax by $10 per year for four years, starting in 2018, as well as extend the tax to cover fugitive and vented emissions.
The deal also commits the new government to sending the Site C hydroelectric dam project to a review. Construction has already started and some 2,000 people are employed, but the deal maintains construction would continue while the review is underway. The Greens had wanted the project killed.
In one area where the two parties could not find agreement – road tolls – the Greens and the NDP agreed to disagree. The NDP campaigned on a platform to end tolls on a pair of Vancouver-region bridges, a popular policy for those living in growing Lower Mainland suburbs where real estate prices have not reached the boiling point of Vancouver’s. But the Greens had regarded that as bad public policy. Tolls were seen as a sort of sin tax, aimed at getting people out of their cars.
Under the agreement, the Greens will continue to oppose the elimination of tolls. But they also committed to supporting an NDP budget that will kill them.
Ms. Clark said she expected the legislature to meet next month. If her government falls, it would then be up to the Lieutenant-Governor to determine what happens next, though she doesn’t plan on asking for a snap election.
“If there is going to be a transfer of power, and it certainly seems that there will be, it shouldn’t be done behind closed doors,” Ms. Clark told a news conference in Vancouver.
“It should happen in public. It should happen in the people’s house.”
Ms. Clark had the option of stepping aside rather than face a potentially humiliating public defeat in the legislature. She said she’s prepared to sit as Opposition leader.
Ms. Clark has been premier since 2011, when she took over the BC Liberal Party leadership from former premier Gordon Campbell. The party has been in government since 2001.
The Liberals fought the last election based on their record of consecutive balanced budgets and some of the best economic numbers in the country. But urban anger around skyrocketing housing prices, as well as a lingering stain over British Columbia’s lax campaign finance rules, dogged Ms. Clark on the campaign trail.
Her party was badly hurt in Burnaby, Vancouver and Surrey seats and she lost six cabinet ministers.
The province has not had a minority government since 1952.