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Baldrey: The four big events in B.C. politics following the cliffhanger election

BC Green leader Andrew Weaver and BC New Democrat leader John Horgan shake hands outside the gates of the British Columbia legislature building in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada May 29, 2017.
BC Green leader Andrew Weaver and BC New Democrat leader John Horgan shake hands outside the gates of the British Columbia legislature building in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada May 29, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Light TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

I’ve never been one for year-in-review articles, but given the tumultuous and historic events on the B.C. political scene over the past 12 months, one seems to be in order.

It was a crazy, whirlwind year that kept the public in thrall as momentous event after momentous event unfolded. All eyes were on the legislature as the province was gripped for weeks in uncertainty and high drama.

A lot happened – a cliffhanger election, a minority government, a changeover of power and the exit from the stage by a premier – but I think four events in particular stand out above all else. They are:

The Deal

After it was clear the B.C. Liberals had fallen just short of forming another majority government, all eyes turned to the three-member B.C. Green party caucus and their leader Andrew Weaver.

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The Greens began a tentative dance with the other two parties, both of them keen to attract the fledgling party’s support to form a minority government.

WATCH: One-on-one with John Horgan

One-on-one with John Horgan
One-on-one with John Horgan

The B.C. Liberals signaled they were willing to embrace pretty well the entire Green Party platform, but they never really stood a chance of successfully wooing the Greens into a partnership of sorts. Weaver could be warm to the idea, but he could not deliver his caucus (particularly rookie MLA Sonia Fursteneau) to the B.C. Liberals.

Thus, the deal was done with the NDP, as the two sides signed a “Confidence and Supply Agreement” guaranteeing Green support for the NDP on any confidence votes in the legislature. Because of the Greens’ decision to make electoral reform their number one priority (and the NDP’s sly move to legislate that any election fought before July, 2021 must be held using the first-past-the-post system), the agreement should last four years.

The Lieutenant-Governor turns to Horgan

It was still unclear what, exactly, was going to happen when the B.C. Liberals lost an historic confidence vote and then-Premier Christy Clark trooped up to Government House to meet with Lieutenant-Governor Judith Guichon. Would the LG dissolve the house, forcing another election? Or would she turn to the NDP and their leader John Horgan?

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READ MORE: Keith Baldrey: BC NDP look less like activists, more like government as Site C decision looms

The answer became clear once her staff summoned Horgan to Government House on that warm June evening, and he emerged to say he had been called upon to form a government, something the NDP had been waiting to do for 16 long years.

A few weeks later, the NDP was sworn into office in an emotional and celebratory ceremony, thus capping off what had been a months-long roller coast ride the likes of which B.C. politics has never seen.

Christy Clark leaves the scene

From the moment it was apparent she wasn’t going to form a government, it was hard to visualize the hyper-partisan Christy Clark, now deposed as premier, sitting on the Opposition benches. Still she took pretty well everyone by surprise when she suddenly quit her seat and left the scene entirely.

WATCH: Christy Clark resigning as BC Liberal leader

Christy Clark resigning as BC Liberal leader
Christy Clark resigning as BC Liberal leader

The move immediately provided stability for the NDP government, as it robbed the B.C. Liberals of a valuable seat (until likely February anyways) in the legislature. Clark also plunged her party into a leadership race much earlier than many party stalwarts had wanted.

The Site C dam decision is made

It wasn’t clear just what kind of NDP government B.C. was getting until the cabinet decided whether to finish the Site C dam. All other issues and policies paled to this one, as so many party activists had assumed the dam would be killed.

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The decision on the dam’s future would define the NDP government in so many ways. It would signal whether it was beholden to its activist past, or to a different approach now that it was in government.

WATCH: Andrew Weaver says BC NDP should have stopped Site C

Andrew Weaver says BC NDP should have stopped Site C
Andrew Weaver says BC NDP should have stopped Site C

But the NDP cabinet, looking at the much broader picture (as in weighing business confidence, the government’s credit rating, and the impact on electricity rates), dismissed the option to cancel the dam and decided to finish the project.

READ MORE: Baldrey: NDP’s Site C decision energizes BC Greens

In the words of one cabinet minister, the NDP chose a “pragmatic” path rather than an “activist” one. It’s an approach that will likely serve the party well as it guides B.C. through some pressing challenges ahead.

Whew, what a year!

Keith Baldrey is chief political reporter for Global BC.

Keith.Baldrey@globalnews.ca

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