It’s going to be fascinating and, at times, amusing, to watch how this province’s two major political parties deal with the upstart new kid on the block: the B.C. Green Party.
As of this column’s writing, the final election count had yet to be concluded so it was unclear whether the Greens would be in a coalition with one of the other two parties (I would say the NDP has a better shot at this scenario) or simply be the third party whose support would still be coveted by a tiny B.C. Liberal minority.
Whatever the outcome, it is clear the Greens will enjoy a level of influence on the next government – no matter which party is leading it – that is grossly disproportionate to the level of support it received from B.C. voters.
The Greens took three seats with less than 18 per cent of the vote, but party leader Andrew Weaver, in his various dealings with the media, has been talking as if his party was the actual vote leader on election night.
He keeps releasing an ever-increasing list of demands that must be met to gain the Greens’ support in the legislature, and thus allow a party with a minority status or even a bare majority one (44 or 45 seats) form the government.
He calls them “deal breakers” and their status as priority items seems to change daily.
Whether either the B.C. Liberals or the NDP attach the same “deal breaker” status to any of them remains unclear, but I can’t see either party adopting Green policies that are in direct contradiction with their own core policies or values simply to attain power.
Then again, we are in political waters that are not only uncharted, but also about to get very choppy.
Weaver’s first “dealbreaker” is potentially the most alarming one.
He wants the next government to unilaterally impose an entirely new system of voting for government, one based on some kind of representation model (of which there are many). No referendum first, just do it he says.
He wants to ban all corporate and union donations to political parties. This one has gotten away from the Greens a little bit after Globe and Mail columnist Gary Mason revealed this past weekend the party was trying to woo $30,000 from a developer.
During the election campaign, he told me his third priority item was a massive increase to the education system, yet that one doesn’t seem to have come up again since.
He is demanding the Greens be awarded “official party status” in the legislature. I assume this one at least will have both NDP and B.C. Liberal support, although it will require an amendment to the B.C. Constitution Act, which stipulates an official party must have at least four seats in the legislature.
And where shutting down the Site C dam sits on the Green priority list is now unclear. Weaver told me it’s on the list, but he’s now not exactly sure in what spot. He seems to be hedging on this, which may be reflective of his original support for the dam plus the prospect of an NDP-B.C. Green coalition suddenly throwing more than 2,200 people out of work on that project seems to be fading rapidly.
The Greens obviously share more policy positions with the NDP than the B.C. Liberals (opposition to the Kinder Morgan pipeline and Site C for example) but some of their policies will give New Democrats major headaches as well (expanding, and not eliminating, bridge tolls as well as a fairly rapid increase to the carbon tax).
Of course, some of the Greens’ bluster can be chalked up to negotiations between the parties (well, between the Greens and the other two, who likely aren’t speaking to each other) ramping up this week.
And neither Premier Christy Clark or NDP leader John Horgan is going to publicly clash with the Greens about anything right now and likely not for the near future. Everyone is trying to get along in the sandbox.
It’s going to be a wild ride.
But just how Green that ride ultimately becomes once the reality of governing takes over for either of the major parties remains very uncertain.
Keith Baldrey is chief political reporter for Global BC. Keith.Baldrey@globalnews.ca
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