A Northwest political tsunami struck the Great White North on Monday, as the left-leaning New Democratic Party and the Green Party have teamed up and will form the next government of British Columbia.
The “red-green” team will be a first for North America.
Greens have often taken part in governing coalitions in Europe, particularly in Germany. But B.C., often nicknamed Canada’s “lotus land,” is the first place to see it happen on this side of “The Pond.”
The “red-green” governing agreement promises to establish the West Coast, from the California-Mexico border to the British Columbia-Alaska border, as a global stronghold of environmental conservation and clean energy development.
The agreement will make John Horgan, a blunt-spoken Irishman and leader of the New Democrats, the province’s 36th premier. The Greens, under academic Andrew Weaver, will support the government on confidence and budget votes in the British Columbia Legislature.
Horgan and Weaver announced the historic agreement at the ornate Parliament Building in Victoria, and were seen together at a rugby match. They’ve not always gotten along in the past.
“In the end, we had to make a difficult decision,” said Weaver, “a decision we felt was in the best interest of British Columbia today and that decision was for the B.C. Greens to work with the B.C. NDP for a stable minority government over the four-year term of the next session.”
“We specifically did not ask for there to be a coalition. We wanted to maintain a minority situation to show British Columbians that (it) can work.”
How stable, remains to be seen. The 41 New Democrats and three Greens form a bare 44-vote majority in the 87-member Legislature. The long ruling (not very liberal) Liberal Party holds 43 seats.
The “red-green” accord means the end of 16 years of Liberal Party rule: Laden with political fixers, the party has governed to the benefit of big resource industries and the real estate industry in the province. It’s also likely curtains for B.C. Premier Christy Clark, who’s been in office for six years.
“After 16 years, it’s time for a change,” said Horgan.
The agreement comes at a delicate time for the Houston-based Kinder Morgan Corp. which plans to build a $7.4 billion (Canadian) pipeline that would carry bitumen crude oil from Alberta’s tar sands across British Columbia to an oil port just east of Vancouver.
The project would send 34 laden oil tankers each month through international waters of the Salish Sea, notably the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Haro Strait, which separates our San Juan Islands from Canada’s Gulf Islands.
The New Democrats and Greens both oppose the 848,000 barrels-a-day mega-pipeline, arguing its risks are too great to populate areas in British Columbia’s Lower Mainland, and to internationally renowned waters teeming with salmon and marine life.
Kinder Morgan is up before the Toronto Stock Exchange, hoping by Wednesday to sell a $1.75 billion stock offering to begin pipeline construction by September.
The pipeline was a major topic of discussion in coalition talks, Weaver said as he appeared with Horgan.
Clark is still in office. She can resign immediately, and let the NDP-Green coalition get sworn in. She could ask Lt. Gov. Judith Guichon, the Queen’s representative in Victoria, to call the Legislature into session and face a confidence vote, which she would lose.
The outgoing — one way or another — premier issued a hasty non-committal statement.
“In recent days, we have made every effort to reach a governing agreement, while standing firm on our core beliefs,” she said. “It’s vitally important that British Columbians see the specific details of the agreement announced today by the BC NDP and Green Party leade3rs, which could have far reaching consequences for our province’s future.”
“As the incumbent government, and the party with the most seats in the Legislature, we have a responsibility to carefully consider our next steps.”
The teaming of the NDP and Greens, resulting from a provincial election three weeks ago, will have far-reaching consequences.
With a huge war chest supplied by the mining, oil/gas and timber industries, the Liberal Party governed with a development strategy reminiscent of the old Soviet Union.
Clark touted location of huge Liquid Natural Gas terminals along the British Columbia Coast. The Liberals announced support for Kinder Morgan’s pipeline, with a $1 billion sweetener promised for the province’s coffers.
It cut back mine safety inspections, resulting in the Mt. Polley Mine disaster of 2014, in which a tailings dam breached and sent metal-contaminated water into one of the province’s legendary salmon spawning areas.
In order to supply electricity to the LNG terminals, the Liberal government has green-lighted an environmentally destructive, $8 billion (with cost overruns to come) dam project on the Peace River in northeast British Columbia.
Under Weaver, the Green Party has eschewed the nuisance tactics of U.S. Green Party leader Jill Stein, who came across during the 2016 campaign as a dog biting at Hillary Clinton‘s ankles. Stein went big for publicity stunts, and made common cause with such folks as Seattle’s Trotskyist City Council member Kshama Sawant.
Weaver established the Green as more than greenies, making control of election spending and proportional representation in the Legislature key planks in the party platform.
The Greens ended up taking 16 percent of the province’s vote and three legislative seats on Vancouver Island, becoming the balance of power.
Full details of the New Democrats’-Greens plan for governing were not released Monday. “There’ll be more to share in the coming days,” Horgan said.
“This is an incredible opportunity, and we’re eager to work together on the issues that matter to British Columbians. It’s time for a legislature where all MLAs can put forward good ideas that help people and come together to support them.”