B.C. will have its first NDP government in 16 years. But is it inherently unstable?
The BC NDP is taking power for the first time in 16 years, but the party will only do it with help from the Greens and a razor-thin plurality of seats.
With that alliance holding just one more seat than the BC Liberals, is B.C. set to be governed by an inherently unstable legislature?
That’s what outgoing Premier Christy Clark argued when she advised Lt.-Gov. Judith Guichon to call another election rather than give the opposition parties the chance to govern.
“I know that they have the numbers to topple the government and to take power, but I haven’t seen any evidence that they have the numbers that they need to actually govern,” Clark told reporters Wednesday.
But a University of Victoria (UVic) political scientist said the situation isn’t as dire as Clark makes it out to be.
Michael Prince said the parties will have plenty of chances to cooperate with the BC Liberals now pledging to emulate many of the most contentious planks of the NDP and Green platforms.
“Given that dramatic throne speech last week by the Liberals, if it wasn’t just a dying last gasp at power, if it truly is something that Christy Clark said would serve as the platform for that party for the next election, whenever that may be, there ought to be the basis for a more stable government,” he said.
That includes key NDP and Green priorities like a referendum on electoral reform, banning corporate and union donations, raising welfare rates and implementing a poverty reduction plan.
Prince said there’s also plenty of overlap on the fentanyl crisis, softwood lumber and mental health.
The Liberals will also now need to face up to their public claims that they want a more cooperative legislature, he added.
“You would think now, to take Christy Clark’s line that she heard what British Columbians wanted, which was a different style, more cooperative and collaborative, that should apply to them whether the BC Liberals are in power or whether they’re in opposition to see if they really do practise what they think they were preaching,” Prince said.
The NDP also unveiled a plan this week that would see more contentious issues such as how to hammer out legislation and maintain a majority on votes.
WATCH: NDP Leader John Horgan confident about the future
But it won’t all be smooth sailing.
The Kinder Morgan Pipeline and the Site C dam project remain areas of contention between the incoming and outgoing governments.
An NDP Speaker will also still have to break ties by voting on the final reading of any bills.
Despite the rhetoric around cooperating, the legislature is by its nature an adversarial place, Prince said.
And the Liberals will still have opportunities to cause trouble, he added.
“If they want to fight, they’ll find something in the budget to dispute about.”
LISTEN: What are the economics of an NDP-Green alliance?
Not everyone agrees that the parties will make things work in Victoria.
Advocacy group the Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation (CTF) said it’s anticipating another election sooner rather than later — one that British Columbians will be on the hook for.
“There’s probably going to be an election before the four year cycle is over,” said federation vice-president Scott Hennig.
“Minority governments usually don’t last more than two or three years. The last one we saw that had a one-seat majority, in New Brunswick, it lasted three years. But I wouldn’t hold my breath that this one is going to go that long.”
The May election cost B.C. taxpayers a little over $44 million.
Premier-designate John Horgan told reporters that he was confident he would be able to find common ground with the other parties.
“I think this is an extraordinary opportunity for a new legislature to work together cooperatively,” Horgan said Thursday.
“Her Honour read a throne speech just last week that was consistent with the values and platform planks that I put forward.”
Horgan will begin the work of forming his government on Friday.
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