Voter change

The use of internet – or electronic – voting in elections is growing. But there are still plenty of concerns about reliability, safety and privacy. Will electing your government via the tap of a smartphone ever catch on?

Next month people in the UK will vote in a general election, heading to polling stations at schools, libraries and other public buildings to put a cross on a piece of paper.

In the digital era, it all seems quaintly archaic.

Bad weather can put people off going to vote, while others forget to register or might be away on holiday and not have arranged a postal vote.

Couldn’t technology remove some of these barriers to democratic involvement?

Estonia certainly thinks so.

About 14 countries have used some form of online voting, but Estonia was the first to introduce permanent national internet voting.

The small Baltic state began using online voting in 2005, and i-voting has served in eight elections. In the 2005 local elections, only 1.9% of voters cast their ballot online, rising to more than 30% in the most recent parliamentary election.

“I-voting has become massive, and statistically there is no such thing as a typical i-voter,” says Arne Koitmae, deputy head of Estonia’s Electoral Office.

“All voters, irrespective of gender, income, education, nationality and even computer skills, have the likelihood of becoming an i-voter,” he says.

Online voting is a good way to engage with younger voters, busy workers, and even Estonians living abroad, Mr Koitmae says. “In 2015, Estonians living in 116 different countries participated in the elections using internet voting.”

However, it does not seem to have increased the total number of people voting, he says. Rather, people have changed their preferred method of voting.

Encryption

Since Estonia’s i-voting began, there have been no serious security issues, Mr Koitmae says. The technology and processes used are updated regularly based on technical advances and experiences from each election.

A crucial part of Estonia’s system is that online voting is linked to the country’s state-of-the-art electronic identity cards – carried by every citizen and resident.

Digital ID cards allow for the secure authentication of the owner online, and enables a digital signature to be linked to the account. Newer cards include an electronic copy of the owner’s fingerprints.

Estonian voter Igor Hobotov says the ID-linked i-voting system makes him feel a lot more secure when voting than a paper-based method. In fact, he says he might not vote at all if the online option was not available to him.

“I have e-voted multiple times, in local elections and parliament elections. Mostly I’ve been at home, but once I even voted on holiday from Cape Town. I prefer to e-vote because it is more convenient and more secure – we have a digital ID card with [strong] encryption, which is really, really hard to hack,” Mr Hobotov says.

“I can vote without any hassle, just sat at the computer. I would probably never vote if I had to go somewhere to do it.”


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Australia’s state of New South Wales allows voters with impaired vision, other disabilities, those in rural areas, and those not present in the state on election day to vote online or via telephone in state general elections.

A few municipalities in Canada allow for online voting in municipal elections, but the government has specifically decided against it for federal elections.

Norway tested i-voting in parliamentary elections in 2011 and 2013, but decided to discontinue online voting due to political disagreement and voters’ concerns.

And France previously allowed citizens living abroad to cast their vote online in legislative elections, but has disallowed this for the upcoming June legislative elections amid cyber-security concerns.

Privacy

Would Estonia-style i-voting work in the UK?

Recently, a special report by the Digital Democracy Commission recommended that by 2020, secure online voting should be an option for all voters.

UK voter Matthew Burton says he definitely wouldn’t switch the paper and pen vote for an online system.

“Voting is an important activity, and something people have died for and continue to die for. It should be more important than pressing a button on a smartphone on your way to work or when you’re out with friends,” he says.

Not only could i-voting trivialise the process, he says, there may also be security concerns – not just over voter fraud, but also ballot secrecy. Would some people be scared to vote knowing it might not be 100% secret, he wonders.

Stephen Schneider, professor in security for the department of computer science at the University of Surrey, says the success of Estonia’s system lies in the fact it was built from the ground up, supported by a solid infrastructure including the digital identification system.

“Their digital ID cards underpin the whole thing,” Prof Schneider says. “Without it, it would be like building [a voting system] on sand.”

To make i-voting work in the UK, several changes would be needed, including introducing electronic ID cards.

The technical ability for digital identification is certainly already here. One company is even trialling smartphone-based selfies for voter authentication.

The real risk

However, Prof Schneider says the necessary changes pose more of a societal challenge, as many people are uncomfortable with registering personal data, such as with ID cards.

Prof Schneider says the main security threat to online voting would be from malware on personal computers, which could potentially change votes cast via the internet.

Similarly, the use of internet-enabled voting machines in polling stations is “not really very secure”, he says. Many older machines, some used in the US, are “more easy to subvert”.

However, security software company Symantec says individual voters are not at any real risk, and it has not seen a single incident of external attackers interfering with voters.

Symantec believes large-scale attackers – including state-sponsored hackers – prefer to target political systems more generally, for example, the cyber-attack on the US Democratic Party in 2016.

“State-sponsored attack groups are not interested in affecting individual voters. What they are interested in is affecting the outcome of these election events,” Dick O’Brien, threat researcher at Symantec says.

Politicians and political parties are the “low-hanging fruit” for attackers, he says, because of the often chaotic nature of communications within these organisations.

And with a number of elections coming up across Europe, he says, it is not the individual voter who must remain vigilant, but politicians and political parties.

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British Columbia Greens Back New Democrats in Political Upheaval

(Bloomberg) — British Columbia’s New Democratic and Green parties announced a four-year alliance aimed at forming the Canadian province’s first minority government in more than six decades.

Green leader Andrew Weaver said his party has agreed to support the New Democrats — which got close to winning half the seats in the provincial parliament this month. Details will be released Tuesday after the pact is ratified by members of the New Democratic Party, leader John Horgan said at a news conference with Weaver in Victoria.

“We’re looking to show British Columbians that minority governments can work,” Weaver, 55, told reporters, saying the parties have ruled out forming a coalition. “We’re not looking to have an election any time soon.”

The alliance may be setting the stage for a leadership battle in the Pacific Coast province between Horgan, a feisty 57-year-old former pulp mill worker, and B.C. Premier Christy Clark, 51. The premier has indicated she intends to continue governing after her Liberal Party won the most seats in parliament — but fell one short of a majority — in a fiercely contested election this month.

The Liberals won 43 seats, the NDP took 41, and the Greens conquered 3 — the first time the party has ever had more than one.

“As the incumbent government, and the party with the most seats in the legislature, we have a responsibility to carefully consider our next steps,” Clark said in a statement. “It’s vitally important that British Columbians see the specific details of the agreement announced today by the BC NDP and Green Party leaders, which could have far-reaching consequences for our province’s future.”

Minority Government

The province that boasts Canada’s fastest-growing economy hasn’t seen a party govern without a majority of the seats in the legislature since 1952. Even though minority governments aren’t unusual in Canada and a formal coalition isn’t necessary to govern, such a tight outcome is rare. The NDP-Green alliance would have only a one-seat edge over the Liberals in the legislature, which some political commentators have called unsustainable.

The Green Party and NDP share similar ideas, such as raising carbon taxes and taxing housing speculators, and their alliance is likely to cloud the outlook for Kinder Morgan Inc.’s Trans Mountain oil pipeline expansion.

The issue of the pipeline expansion played a “critical” role in the negotiations for a deal and will be reflected in details of the pact Tuesday, Weaver said.

Shares in the Canadian unit of the Houston-based company are set to start trading at C$17 each on Tuesday morning in an initial public offering that’s expected to raise C$1.75 billion ($1.3 billion) . Those funds will be used to help pay for the controversial C$7.4 billion project to nearly triple Trans Mountain’s capacity, which will allow Canada to start exporting oil to Asia but is vehemently opposed by many in B.C. because of fears of an oil spill.

©2017 Bloomberg L.P.

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BC Greens strike deal to force end of Liberal era, support NDP government

The BC NDP and Greens have formed an agreement to topple Premier Christy
Clark’s fragile minority government at the earliest opportunity after sealing a
pact over the parties’ shared opposition to resource projects such as the Kinder
Morgan pipeline and Site C hydroelectric dam.

NDP Leader John Horgan and Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver announced they
have negotiated a deal that would allow an NDP minority government to survive a
four-year term. The combined alliance would lead to a governing arrangement with
a margin of only a single seat over the Liberals. The balance of power is that
much more precarious considering that any new government must appoint a Speaker
of the House.

Combined, the NDP’s 41 seats and the Greens’ three seats outnumber the
Liberals’ 43 seats. An NDP government formed with the support of the Greens –
the Greens have explicitly rejected a coalition government – would give the
parties a single-seat majority.

Gary Mason: It’s not yet a done deal, but expectations are already shifting in B.C. politics

Opinion: B.C.’s political union: Promises, a jilted suitor and four years of drama

The defeat of the Liberals could have major national implications if the two
parties work together, as expected, to ensure Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain
project never gets built. Immediately after the announcement Monday, Alberta’s
deputy premier congratulated all three parties but noted it’s up to the federal
government to approve pipelines.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has given that approval and the BC Liberals
declared the project met the provincial government’s five conditions for
approval.

The details of the agreement between the NDP and the Greens will be released
Tuesday after ratification by the NDP caucus, so the plans for how to oppose
Kinder Morgan are not yet public.

But Mr. Weaver revealed the issue was key to the Greens’ decision to reject
the Liberals’ overtures.

“This issue of Kinder Morgan is one that was critical to us,” Mr. Weaver told
reporters.

Sources close to the negotiations also indicated
the Liberals’ commitment to building the $8.8-billion Site C hydroelectric dam
was another issue that led the Greens to favour a deal with the NDP.

Norman Spector, a former chief of staff to prime minister Brian Mulroney and
deputy minister to B.C. premier Bill Bennett, was the chief negotiator for the
Greens with the Liberals and the NDP during talks aimed at securing Green
support in the wake of the close May 9 election. In the room for the Liberals
was Brad Bennett, the former premier’s son.

Mr. Spector told CBC in an interview Monday that at one point, Mr. Weaver
“basically looked across at Brad Bennett, and said, ‘You know Brad, I think
maybe it’s time for a time-out for the Liberals.’”

In a series of tweets on Monday, Mr. Spector said that during the
negotiations it appeared the Greens could have reached a deal with either
party.

Ultimately, he wrote, they “recoiled [sometimes physically] at the prospect
of supporting a Liberal government.”

The Green Party campaigned hard against the Trans Mountain pipeline and Mr.
Horgan has said his party would use every tool available to scuttle the
project.

On Monday, Sarah Hoffman, Alberta’s deputy Premier, made it clear her
provincial government expects the federal Liberals to ensure the project goes
ahead.

“As far as we’re concerned, the federal government has the authority to
approve pipelines,” Ms. Hoffman said. “They’ve made that decision and our
pipeline is moving forward. We have intervenor status should we need it. We will
continue to stand up for Albertans and making sure we get our pipelines built
and access to tidewater. It is not only good for Alberta jobs and the Alberta
economy, it is good for Canada’s economy and Canadian jobs.”

The deal paves the way for Mr. Horgan to become the first New Democrat to
hold the keys to the Premier’s office since 2001. Mr. Horgan indicated Monday he
will be visiting the Lieutenant-Governor to point out the new-found
agreement.

“We now have with our 41 members, and the three Green members, the majority
of support in the legislature. We’ll be making that known to the
Lieutenant-Governor in the next number of days,” Mr. Horgan told reporters.

But the next move belongs in the hands of Premier Clark and
Lieutenant-Governor Judith Guichon.

Ms. Clark she will consult with her caucus before responding on Tuesday. It’s
not clear when she will call the legislature back.

In her statement, the Premier suggested British Columbians should be worried
about an NDP-led government. “It’s vitally important that British Columbians see
the specific details of the agreement … which could have far-reaching
consequences for our province’s future.”

Mr. Weaver bristled at her suggestion that the NDP and Greens would kill jobs
in British Columbia – a claim she raised throughout the election.

“We are talking about an economic agenda … to ensure we embrace the jobs of
the 21st century,” he told reporters. “I think under this minority government
you will see real, secure, stable job growth.”

Faced with the prospect of a defeat in the House, Ms. Clark could resign, or
she could ask the Lieutenant-Governor to call another election. Alternatively,
she could ask Ms. Guichon to recall the legislature and introduce a Speech from
the Throne, which would then allow the Premier to formally test the confidence
of the House. The NDP and the Greens could then bring down the government.

If Ms. Clark lost a vote of confidence, the Lieutenant-Governor could choose
to call another election, but she would also have the option to ask Mr. Horgan
whether he could pass a vote of confidence in the House.

During the four years that Mr. Weaver was the sole Green MLA in the
legislature, and throughout the election campaign, the Greens and the NDP traded
barbs and displayed at times a strong animosity that might have derailed any
deal. Mr. Weaver said the time he spent in face-to-face negotiations with Mr.
Horgan helped him overcome his mistrust of the NDP Leader and the pair were
spotted on Sunday watching the Canadian women’s rugby match against New Zealand
near Victoria.

During the negotiations, Mr. Weaver announced his party had three key demands
– the Greens want to be elevated to official party status, they want
campaign-finance reform and they want electoral changes brought in before the
next election.

On Monday, he would not say whether he has won an agreement to introduce
changes to ensure the next election is held under a new voting system of
proportional representation. However, he did say: “We are looking to show to
British Columbians that minority governments can work … in the best interests of
people.”



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PRESS DIGEST- Canada-May 29

THE GLOBE AND MAIL

** A West Coast property developer says the Trans Mountain
pipeline will ruin its plans for a new subdivision of
million-dollar homes. tgam.ca/2rxvuDM

** Acacia Mining, the African subsidiary of Barrick Gold
Corp says it is losing more than $1 million in daily
revenue as Tanzania extends an export ban and accuses mining
companies of massive tax evasion. tgam.ca/2scugdF

** Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is hopeful Pope
Francis will heed a personal call to make a formal apology to
aboriginal survivors of sexual and physical abuse at
Catholic-run residential schools during a private audience with
his holiness at the Vatican on Monday. tgam.ca/2rNWqig

NATIONAL POST

** The federal government of Ottawa has created an advisory
panel aimed at bringing more zero-emission vehicles to roads
across the country, a decision that industry manufacturers and
electric car advocates say is a positive step forward. bit.ly/2qrVT64
(Compiled by Bengaluru newsroom; Editing by James Dalgleish)


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B.C. Green Party and NDP agree to have NDP form government

The B.C. Green Party has agreed to support the NDP in the legislature, setting up the possibility of 16 years of Liberal rule coming to a dramatic end.

NDP Leader John Horgan and Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver made the joint announcement Monday afternoon at the B.C. Legislature, saying they had reached a four-year agreement.

“In the end, we had to make a difficult decision,” Weaver told reporters, describing the negotiating sessions his party held with the NDP and B.C. Liberals since election night ended without a definitive result three weeks ago.

“A decision we felt was in the best interest of B.C. today. And that decision was for the B.C. Greens to work with the B.C. NDP to provide a stable minority government over the four-year term of this next session.”

Details of agreement to come  

The deal gives the NDP the support of 44 MLAs — their 41 members plus the three Green MLAs — the minimum number required to have a majority of support in the 87-seat legislature. The Liberals have 43 seats.   

The Greens and NDP said the agreement was a “Confidence and Supply Agreement,” meaning a guarantee of support for any budgets or confidence motions. But additional details on what the NDP has agreed to in exchange for the Greens’ support won’t be released until the NDP caucus approves the deal on Tuesday. 

“We’re going to put the agreement before our caucus and have it ratified, and make it available to the public at that time,” Horgan said.

There were many issues the two parties agreed upon during the campaign, including working to stop the Kinder Morgan pipeline and banning corporate and union donations.

But it’s unclear what will happen with those issues they disagreed on, including whether electoral reform needs approval in a referendum or just the legislature, or whether the $8.8-billion Site C hydroelectric dam project should be scrapped or merely sent for review.

“We specifically did not ask for there to be a coalition,” Weaver said. “We wanted to maintain a minority situation to show British Columbians that [it] can work.”

Horgan said after 12 years as an opposition member, he’s “excited by the prospect of working with opposition members to make B.C. better.”

What comes next?

Under Canada’s political system, B.C. Liberal Leader Christy Clark remains premier for the time being. She can now ask Lt.-Gov. Judith Guichon for the chance to face the legislature and introduce a throne speech, resign or request to dissolve the legislature and hold another election.

Horgan and Weaver are optimistic Guichon will see their agreement as strong enough to give the NDP the opportunity to form government without an election.

“We have the majority of support in the legislature. We’ll be making that known to the lieutenant-governor in the next couple of days, and we’ll proceed from there,” Horgan said. 

Clark didn’t take part in the negotiations between her party and the Greens. A short time after Weaver and Horgan made their announcement, she issued a statement saying she would have more to say on Tuesday.

“In recent days, we have made every effort to reach a governing agreement, while standing firm on our core beliefs. It’s vitally important that British Columbians see the specific details of the agreement announced today by the BC NDP and Green Party leaders, which could have far-reaching consequences for our province’s future,” she wrote.

“As the incumbent government, and the party with the most seats in the legislature, we have a responsibility to carefully consider our next steps.”

B.C. has elected a minority government. What’s next?2:42

Hamish Telford, a professor of political science at the University of the Fraser Valley, said Clark still has options but her chances of remaining premier for any length of time are dim.

“Does she throw in the towel now? Does she go to the lieutenant-governor and say, ‘It’s clear I’m not going to get the confidence of the legislature, I’m out’? I really don’t think that’s going to be the case,” he said. 

“All it’s going to take is maybe one Green member or one NDP member to be sick and not make the [first budget] vote for [an NDP] government to survive. This is a very precarious situation.”

But on Monday evening, it appeared to be a precarious situation firmly in the NDP’s favour.

“The premier,” Horgan said, “will have some choices to make, without any doubt.”

WATCH: The full NDP-Green press conference

B.C. Green Party agrees to support NDP in the legislature20:28

With files from Lisa Johnson

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A minority NDP government in B.C. will have national significance

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On Monday, B.C. Green leader Andrew Weaver and the B.C. NDP’s John Horgan announced they had a deal that would allow the New Democrats to govern as a minority. The Liberals won the most seats (43) in the May 9 election but they were one short of a majority. The NDP won 41 and the Greens three.

The Greens and NDP do not propose a coalition government, in which Green members would have cabinet posts and the two parties would function as partners. Instead, the Greens and New Democrats have an agreement — not yet made public — on an NDP government legislative agenda which the Greens could support.

This agreement does not mean the NDP automatically gets to form a new, minority government. Liberal leader Christy Clark is still premier. She can continue to govern, if she wishes, for several months, without meeting the legislature.

If her government were ultimately to lose a confidence vote in the legislature, Clark could then decide to resign, or she could ask the lieutenant governor to call an election. It would be difficult for an unelected Queen’s representative to deny such a request from a premier. In 1926, Governor General Byng refused Prime Minister Mackenzie King’s request for dissolution and an election, and it did not work out well for the vice-regal side.

As for Christy Clark, she says she is waiting to see the contents of the NDP-Green agreement before determining her next move.

If, after the dust settles, the NDP does get to govern with Green support, it is almost certain the Kinder Morgan pipeline twinning project will be in serious jeopardy. Without going into details during the joint NDP-Green news conference on Monday afternoon, Weaver did say stopping Kinder Morgan was a crucial issue for his party. Horgan had expressed his opposition to the pipeline project almost as soon as Prime Minister Trudeau announced federal approval of it, last November, with Alberta NDP Premier Rachel Notley by his side.

And so while many New Democrats across the country will applaud the ascension to power of an NDP government in Canada’s third largest province, there will be no cheers at the NDP headquarters in Edmonton.

Some federal NDP leadership candidates will try to walk a fine line, applauding Horgan while respecting Alberta’s Notley. B.C. MP Peter Julian is an exception. He is unequivocally with the B.C. NDP on the pipeline issue. Others, such as Charlie Angus, have been more circumspect. They tend to talk about the good work Notley has done on climate change, while being careful not to definitively call for the end to the Kinder Morgan project. If Horgan takes power with Green support, it will make it harder for NDP leadership aspirants to continue maintaining their studied ambiguity on Kinder Morgan.

Weaver has been clear about two other conditions for his and his party’s support: reforming political finances in B.C. and changing the electoral system so that it includes a significant element of proportionality.

The first should be an easy win for Horgan, since he has also advocated getting big money out of politics.

On electoral reform, however, Horgan has taken the position that a referendum is necessary to ratify any change in how British Columbians vote. The Greens argue that the government should simply pass legislation to implement a mixed member proportional system.

When we see the agreement we will know how the two leaders have squared that circle. It is possible that the two parties might agree to a referendum on reform, but one that requires only a simply majority to pass. In previous B.C. referenda, the rules said there could be no change without approval of 60 per cent of the voters in 60 per cent of the ridings. That put an almost impossibly high barrier on reform.

If a B.C. NDP minority government does succeed in implementing a major change to the electoral system it could have national importance, given the at times anguished arguments about reform we have had at the federal level.

Weaver underscored the importance of this issue to him on Monday when he said that he and his party opted for a minority government, rather than a full-blown coalition, as a way of showing how proportional representation could deliver stable governments, even if they are not majorities.

Undoubtedly, the shape and character of the next B.C. government will have important implications for Canada as a whole. 

Image: Flickr/BC NDP

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Connelly: Political tsunami in British Columbia; Green Party…

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.”


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Political tsunami in British Columbia; Green Party…

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.”


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Canada launches famine relief fund to avert humanitarian disaster

A severely malnourished child in the hands of her mother waits to be processed into a UNICEF- funded health programme catering to children displaced by drought, at the regional hospital in Baidoa town, the capital of Bay region of south-western Somalia where the spread of cholera has claimed tens of lives of IDP’s compounding the impact of drought on March 15, 2017.
Photo Credit: TONY KARUMBA

With more than 20 million people in northeast Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen at risk of starvation, the federal government has set up an emergency relief fund to encourage Canadians to donate to charities working on the ground to avert a humanitarian catastrophe.

Through the newly created Famine Relief Fund, Ottawa will match every dollar donated by individual Canadians to registered charities between March 17 and June 30, 2017, Minister of International Development and La Francophonie Marie-Claude Bibeau announced Monday.

“Canadians have always demonstrated great compassion when it comes to humanitarian crises,” Bibeau said in a statement. “I encourage all Canadians to donate to the registered Canadian charities of their choice.”

‘An important step’

Meg French, UNICEF Canada Chief Program Officer, welcomed the announcement.

(click to listen to the full interview with Meg French)

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“It’s really an important step that they’ve taken,” French said in a phone interview from Toronto. “There are about 1.4 million children who are currently at risk of severe malnutrition in the region, so funds like these, which will help double the impact of Canadians’ donations, will make a real difference in their lives. It’s really a life-saving announcement.”

A picture shows South Sudanese refugees at a UN camp in al-Waral, in Sudan’s White Nile state, south of Khartoum, on May 18 2017.
A picture shows South Sudanese refugees at a UN camp in al-Waral, in Sudan’s White Nile state, south of Khartoum, on May 18 2017. © ASHRAF SHAZLY

A combination of drought and conflict have all but completely exhausted people’s survival strategies, said CARE Canada’s Pierre Kadet, senior manager of Food Security and Resilience to Climate Change.

“People are foraging for water lilies and roots to fend off starvation. Women and girls are walking longer distances to find water, and falling victim to increasing rates of sexual violence,” Kadet said. “Children are suffering the consequences of malnutrition on their physical and mental health.”

Sounding the alarm

Despite the scope of the crisis, the international community hasn’t been reacting to it quickly enough, French said.

“We really need the international community and individual Canadians as well to help us reach these kids, because we can treat malnourishment,” French said. “It’s not a death sentence, there are treatments that can be provided but we need access to those kids, we need to have the supplies to reach them as well.”

Richard Morgan, executive director of the Humanitarian Coalition, an umbrella group of seven Canadian aid groups, said he was “greatly relieved and appreciative” of the government for launching the matching fund.

 A boy eats out of a ladle at his home in Ngop in South Sudan’s Unity State on March 10, 2017.
A boy eats out of a ladle at his home in Ngop in South Sudan’s Unity State on March 10, 2017. © ALBERT GONZALEZ FARRAN

While many people would recall the kind of publicity generated by the 1985 Live Aid events in response to the Ethiopian famine, the current food crisis has generated very little public attention, even though its scale is larger than the horrific famine that hit the Horn of Africa in mid-1980s, Morgan said.

No caps on matching funds

“We’re grateful that this announcement today will serve as an opportunity to encourage Canadians to take notice of the situation and to support them through matching their contributions to this Famine Relief Fund,” Morgan said.

The money raised through the fund will come on top of $119.25 million in humanitarian funding to respond to food crises in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen Canada announced in March 2017, said Marie-Emmanuelle Cadieux, Bibeau’s spokesperson.

“There is no cap, we want to engage Canadians and reinforce the efforts of civil society organisations,” said Cadieux.

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British Columbia: Greens to back minority NDP government

British Columbia Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver says his party will support a “stable minority” government led by the New Democratic Party (NDP).

The deal means the end of of 16 years in power for the Liberal Party in the Canadian province.

The Liberals won a slim victory in elections earlier in May, with 43 seats to the NDP’s 41.

This makes them the first minority government in the province since the 1950s.

Both Mr Weaver and NDP Leader John Horgan could barely conceal their excitement when they made the announcement together on Monday afternoon.

“This is an opportunity for people coming from an opposition to bring new eyes to government,” Mr Horgan said.

“I think we have a case now that this parliament and this legislature can work,” Mr Weaver added.

The Green Party says it will support the NDP for four years, in order to ensure a stable government. Mr Weaver was careful to stress it would not be a coalition government and the Green Party would not have any seats in cabinet.

The BC Liberals failed to clinch a majority when they lost a crucial district to the NDP on 24 May, a fortnight after the 9 May election, after all absentee ballots were tallied.

It left them with 43 out of 87 seats in the provincial legislature. The left-leaning NDP won 41 seats and the Green Party won three. Almost 60% of people voted against the Liberal Party in the May election.

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After many years in power, the BC Liberal Party has struggled recently amid high-profile donation scandals and a strong environmental movement in the province that vehemently opposes the oil and gas industry.

The provincial Liberals are a separate party from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s federal Liberals.

The terms of the deal between the Green Party and the NDP will be made public soon, Mr Horgan said, but in essence, the Green Party has agreed to side with the NDP on matters of budgets and confidence.

He said he was in talks with both the NDP and the Liberals and that he came “very very” close to working with the latter. But certain issues, notably the Liberals’ support for expanding the Kinder Morgan pipeline, held him back.

The deal still needs to be voted on by the NDP caucus on Tuesday.

Liberal Premier Christy Clark said she will “carefully consider” her next steps and have more to say after the NDP vote.

Legally, she remains premier until she steps down or a new election is called. But with the new deal between the Green Party and the NDP on the table, it is unlikely her government would last long.

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