As the Trudeau government continues to implode and a radical right-wing populist appears to be poised to take over the government right next door, you can forgive B.C. Premier John Horgan if he is getting a bit apprehensive about what kind of relationship his government may have with its counterparts in the coming months.
If the federal Liberals completely tank things (a big “if,” but by no means out of the question given their inability to deal with the SNC-Lavalin mess) and allow Conservative leader Andrew Scheer to unexpectedly form government, it could be a major setback in B.C.-Ottawa relations.
Of course, the federal election is not until October and many things can happen between now and then. And once Scheer undergoes more scrutiny from the public, the mood and opinion of the electorate may once again shift (or not, depending on whether Trudeau’s brand is so tarnished it allows Scheer to win over fence-sitting voters).
Throw in the scenario that sees United Conservative leader Jason Kenney win the Alberta election this month (an almost certainty, but not locked down yet) and the electoral map would show the B.C. NDP government to be smack up against a solid wall of right-wing governments that stretch all the way to the Maritimes.
In addition, I am not talking about Red Tory governments. Instead, the governments of Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Ottawa would tilt significantly to the right. This bloc of right-wing conservativism could have serious implications for a number of issues, not the least of which is fighting climate change.
While the B.C. NDP is by far the greenest government in the country, a string of governments that do not share its priorities when it comes to fighting climate change may frustrate many of its goals and ambitions on the climate change file.
For example, should Scheer and Kenney both form government, B.C. will likely be the only jurisdiction with a carbon tax (and an ever-increasing one at that). That could have significant repercussions on B.C. remaining economically competitive with other provinces.
As well, you can bet on Scheer and Kenney (aided to no small degree by Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe) to aggressively push the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion to completion. Kenney, in particular, has vowed a form of aggression to B.C. if the pipeline is not build.
Kenney has threatened to include various options, including literally “turning off the taps” of Alberta oil sent into B.C. (if you think the price at the pump is high now, just wait to see what would happen if a Kenney-led government reduced the amount of oil flowing into this province).
He has also mused about mandatory “rat” inspections at the B.C.-Alberta border (Alberta is officially “rat-free”) of any B.C. trucks headed into that province. Commercial trucking traffic is a cornerstone of any well-performing economy, and any slowdown of something like that could have dire consequences.
While Kenney, being a next-door neighbour, is potentially the biggest disrupter of the B.C. economy, the NDP government’s relationship with the federal government is in most ways more important.
As I have noted here before, Trudeau and Horgan have forged some kind of bromance that is paying off impressively for B.C., particularly when it comes to jointly building badly needed infrastructure, such as the Broadway subway line and whatever transit line is eventually built in Surrey.
Trudeau has also promised significant resources for coastal protection, and more programs to fight indigenous poverty.
It is hard (no, actually impossible) to see Horgan having as strong a relationship with Scheer. The two men simply do not share the same values or philosophies.
This partly explains why I keep picking up from NDP caucus members a nervous apprehension about what is going on in Ottawa right now. Some seem split about whether Jody Wilson-Raybould should have been expelled from the federal Liberal cabinet (it appears the bruising internal takedown of Carole James as party leader means some view her actions in a different light than their federal party counterparts).
Having Kenney as a belligerent neighbour seems a foregone conclusion, but it seems to me many New Democrats are cheering Trudeau to hang on and win again in October.
Keith Baldrey is chief political correspondent for Global BC.
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