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7 predictions for B.C. politics in 2017

The legislature building in Victoria, B.C. Danita Delimont / Getty Images

After the craziness that characterized so much of the political world in 2016, I suppose I should be wary of making many predictions about what to expect in the coming year.

But where’s the fun in playing it safe?

So here we go. Look for at least some of these things to come true in 2017!

  1. I won’t predict the outcome of the provincial election in May, but I will predict this: the leaders of all three major political parties will post personal re-election victories with ease. All three won by large margins in 2013 (or, in Premier Christy Clark’s case, in a subsequent by-election after she was booted from her Vancouver-Point Grey riding) and no matter the outcome of the general election, they should do so again.
  2. Speaking of those leaders, whoever loses the election between Clark and NDP leader John Horgan will likely pack it in and step down as leader. The one caveat to that is that Clark is a political animal with enormous confidence and optimism who may argue for another crack at the title. Horgan, by contrast, seems frustrated at times with his own party and he would greet a loss as the perfect excuse to say “sayonara” to the old gang.
  3. The B.C. Green Party will emerge as the real wild card in the election campaign, and if it repeats the growth in support in about a half dozen ridings that it enjoyed in 2013, both the NDP and the B.C. Liberals could be denied seats they might have otherwise considered safe ridings. Party leader Andrew Weaver has the potential to have a big impact when he’s on the televised leaders’ debate, which can be a turning point in any campaign.
  4. All things related to the economy will be the dominant issue in the election campaign, but that can be a fairly broadly defined issue. Job creation, housing, fees and taxes, cost of living — all can (and likely will) be part of the economic conversation. The NDP will undoubtedly add affordable daycare to that list, while the B.C. Liberals will argue the New Democrats’ plan is anything but affordable, and is a fiscal disaster in the making.
  5. That said, look for big industrial projects such as the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion, the Site C dam, various LNG projects and the Massey Bridge replacement to be major issues as well. The Liberals will aggressively make these projects a central theme in their campaign, much to the delight of the Green Party, which will gleefully oppose them all and will welcome the attention paid to them. Less enthusiastic to talk about them will be the NDP, whose traditional base of supporters are split on things like this.
  6. The softwood lumber dispute with the U.S. will not fly under the radar for much longer. Come March, duties and countervails will be slapped on B.C. shipments to the U.S., and that will translate into significant job losses in B.C.’s forest industry (most of them in the Interior and the North). Residents of Metro Vancouver don’t quite have their heads around this ticking time bomb of an issue, but they soon will. Historically, B.C. wins these arguments about softwood issues when they finally land in an international tribunal’s jurisdiction, but that can take years. In the meantime, brace yourselves.
  7. The B.C. economy will slow down significantly, but will still be near the top when compared to other provinces. The housing sector — which it can be argued has been most responsible for the province’s red-hot performance the past two years — will cool down, but tourism and hi-tech will remain strong.

What’s hard to read on this front is the impact the policies of U.S. President-elect Donald Trump will have on Canada, and by extension on B.C. While so much about him seems fake, his protectionist and anti-globalization attitudes seem genuine, and that does not bode well for us. We remain the mouse sleeping next to the elephant, and we may get bruised — or even squashed.

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So there you go, my top seven picks. When have I ever been wrong?

Keith Baldrey is chief political reporter for Global BC.

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