COMMENTARY: The BC NDP remains firmly in charge of B.C.’s agenda

B.C. NDP Leader John Horgan and B.C. Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver shake hands during a press conference in the Hall of Honour at the Legislature in Victoria on May 30, 2017.
B.C. NDP Leader John Horgan and B.C. Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver shake hands during a press conference in the Hall of Honour at the Legislature in Victoria on May 30, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

As they enter the second year of an agreement that keeps the current government in power, it’s worth checking to see how that deal has played out in terms of which party is really calling the shots in the B.C. legislature.

The answer is obvious: the NDP is firmly in charge, while the B.C. Greens have settled into a very distant backseat on the government bus.

One year in, and the NDP has continued to build the Site C dam, welcomed an LNG industry with open arms and generous tax incentives, and has shrunk its opposition to the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion to a narrowly defined court challenge that faces an uphill battle of succeeding.

The Greens firmly oppose the dam, and hate the LNG industry and that pipeline with equal amounts of venom. Yet all three are likely to proceed, as the LNG Canada project proposed for Kitimat inches closer to reality, and the federal government has now taken over the pipeline.

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It can be argued, in fact, that when it comes to the pipeline, the B.C. government has become largely irrelevant with the feds’ move, something surely not envisioned when the NDP and the Greens brokered their deal.

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The NDP has brought in various housing taxes that the Greens oppose. The Greens are big proponents of ridesharing and bridge tolls, but the NDP scrapped all tolls and continues to drag its feet on taking action on ridesharing.

The government has also received a study on road pricing — another favourite Green policy — but has given absolutely no assurance that things will go forward. In fact, it looks like that report may be D.O.A., given that no politician — municipal or provincial — is likely to champion a policy that could cost drivers a significant amount of money.

Despite all this, Green Party leader Andrew Weaver insisted to me that his party is setting the government’s economic agenda, although I see no evidence of that.

Then there is the interesting performance of Weaver.

During the recently concluded spring legislative session, hardly a day went by that did not see Weaver denounce the ruling party for one reason or another.

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The NDP side of the house merely smiles at all this huffing and puffing and bluster. It has become apparent over the past year that the Greens will not topple the government, and the NDP knows they can push the envelope without risking defeat.

Weaver has vowed to bring the NDP government down if it allows the LNG industry to set up shop in this province. He argues an LNG operation would make attaining emission targets virtually impossible.

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With an LNG Canada decision expected this fall, Weaver’s first opportunity to bring down the NDP would come during next spring’s confidence vote on the budget. I’ll be surprised if he goes that route (and it is far from clear whether the other two members of the Green caucus would vote the same way).

To be sure, the B.C. Greens have been like a breath of fresh air in the legislature. They have different policy ideas and differ markedly from the other two parties on a number of fronts.

It is clear Weaver and his two fellow caucus members — Sonia Furstenau and Adam Olsen — are enjoying their roles, and seem good at their jobs. Weaver, in particular, has emerged as a key voice on the B.C. political scene.

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But for all the drama that surrounded the which-way-will-they-go dance they performed with the two parties in the aftermath of the last election, things since then have settled down along a mostly traditional majority government situation.

The so-called Confidence And Supply Agreement (which consists almost entirely of NDP campaign promises) remains intact and will likely hold for some time yet, perhaps all the way to the next scheduled election in the fall of 2021.

But one year into that deal, and it is clear one party — and one leader — holds all the cards.

Keith Baldrey is chief political reporter for Global BC. This is reprinted from his weekly column with Glacier Media.

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