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B.C. politics is never dull: The top political stories of 2018.

Clerk of the legislature Craig James and Sergeant-At-Arms Gary Lenz are escorted from the building in what has shaped up to be one of the more mysterious B.C. political stories of 2018. Global News

The old adage is true: there never really is a dull moment in B.C. politics.

The first full year of John Horgan’s term as premier has been a significant one. The NDP government set out to address the housing affordability crisis, problems at ICBC, job creation and money laundering.

There has also been a seismic shift in in Metro Vancouver, with 16 new mayors in the region. This has led to questions about the future of transit projects and the RCMP in Surrey.

Then there’s the federal government, which now owns a pipeline travelling straight through British Columbia.

Here are the top political stories of the year in British Columbia.

ICBC dumpster fire

The BC NDP knew there were problems at the public insurer when it took power but Attorney General David Eby had no idea how bad things were at ICBC.

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When Eby opened the books he couldn’t refrain from calling the situation at ICBC a “dumpster fire.” The insurer lost $1.3 billion last year and is forecasting a loss of more than $800 million in this current fiscal year.

READ MORE: B.C. attorney general pledges to fix ICBC ‘dumpster fire’

“The reality is we could put a billion dollars into ICBC now, but we would have to put a billion dollars in next year and the following year,” said Eby in January.

“We are not going to do short-term fixes for a single year, we are looking at long-term fixes.”

Those long term fixes are on the way. The province has put in regulations that will cap insurance payouts for soft tissue injuries and brain injuries like concussions. The overhaul also includes rules that will reduce legal fees that could save the province around $1 billion a year.

WATCH (aired January 29): BC Attorney General calls ICBC ‘financial dumpster fire’

Click to play video: 'BC Attorney General calls ICBC ‘financial dumpster fire’' BC Attorney General calls ICBC ‘financial dumpster fire’
BC Attorney General calls ICBC ‘financial dumpster fire’ – Jan 29, 2018

The province is also adjusting rates so that bad drivers pay more and good drivers pay less. This change is expected to be revenue neutral but shift the burden onto the drivers that cost the system the most.

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The major changes proposed include greater rate increases for drivers that are found at-fault in crashes, a move towards a driver-based model and increasing insurance discounts for drivers with up to 40 years of driving experience, up from the current nine years of experience limit.

WATCH (aired November 23): ICBC racks up another year of big losses

Click to play video: 'ICBC racks up another year of big losses' ICBC racks up another year of big losses
ICBC racks up another year of big losses – Nov 23, 2018

The big question still on the horizon is what will happen with rates. The expectation is that they will go up substantially this year, with the long term goal to peg future increases to inflation.

Speculation Tax

In February the B.C. government unveiled it’s 30 point plan to address the housing crisis in British Columbia.

But one item came with more controversy seemingly than all the others combined: the Speculation Tax.

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WATCH (aired September 12): B.C. mayors call for changes to speculation tax

Click to play video: 'B.C. mayors call for changes to speculation tax' B.C. mayors call for changes to speculation tax
B.C. mayors call for changes to speculation tax – Sep 13, 2018

The new tax will apply to B.C. residents who will pay a 0.5 per cent tax on any second home that is not rented out for more than six months of the year. Canadian residents living outside the province that don’t rent out their home will also pay a 0.5 per cent tax on the value of the home. Non-Canadians will pay a two per cent tax on the assessed value of the home.

WATCH (Aired March 26): NDP government announces changes to speculation tax

Click to play video: 'NDP government announces changes to speculation tax' NDP government announces changes to speculation tax
NDP government announces changes to speculation tax – Mar 26, 2018

The controversy was around two things.

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The first was the tax scale. Green party leader Andrew Weaver was adamant that Albertans and other Canadians that live outside the province should not pay a higher tax that British Columbians. The original legislation had non-B.C. residents paying a higher tax rate than British Columbians.

READ MORE: B.C. government gets Green support for speculation tax after dropping rate for Canadians from outside B.C.

The second issue was what cities were included. The tax will apply to homes in Metro Vancouver, the Capital Regional District (excluding the Gulf Islands and Strait of Juan de Fuca), Kelowna, West Kelowna, Nanaimo, Abbotsford, Chilliwack and Mission.

Mayors in Kelowna, West Kelowna, Langford and Oak Bay were concerned the tax is already hurting the local housing market. The municipalities were hoping for the ability to opt out of the tax. Ultimately the province agreed to annual meetings with mayors affected by the tax but did not put in an opt-out clause.

Trans Mountain pipeline

In January the provincial government almost triggered a constitutional crisis and trade war. What made it fascinating was that it was done totally unintentionally.

The B.C. government sent out a press release outlining five issues it wanted to consult about concerning the future of carbon emissions in the province. The fifth item on the list was restricting the flow of bitumen by rail or pipeline through the province.

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The item five led to a quick reaction from the Alberta government, questioning British Columbia’s ability to restrict natural resources and the power to consider a change that would, in essence, stop the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

Alberta premier Rachel Notley then turned up the heat by banning the flow of B.C. wine into Alberta liquor stores.

WATCH (aired May 29): Horgan’s full press conference following Trans Mountain pipeline deal announcement

Click to play video: 'Horgan’s full press conference following Trans Mountain pipeline deal announcement' Horgan’s full press conference following Trans Mountain pipeline deal announcement
Horgan’s full press conference following Trans Mountain pipeline deal announcement – May 29, 2018

British Columbia wasn’t done with the maneuvering. The B.C. government started working on a legal reference case with the hopes the court would decide that the province had the right to protect its coastline and restrict the flow of bitumen.

All of this hit a fever pitch when Horgan and Notley were called to Ottawa for a meeting with prime minister Justin Trudeau.

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Trudeau made it clear that he believed the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion was in the public interest and that British Columbia did not have the right to stop it.

Alberta’s government eventually passed legislation that would enable the province to shut the oil taps off to B.C.

WATCH: Rachel Notley backs out of western premiers’ meeting over pipeline spat

Click to play video: 'Rachel Notley backs out of western premiers’ meeting over pipeline spat' Rachel Notley backs out of western premiers’ meeting over pipeline spat
Rachel Notley backs out of western premiers’ meeting over pipeline spat – May 21, 2018

Then there is Kinder Morgan in all of this. The global energy superpower was facing stiff opposition from protesters and First Nations groups in British Columbia who were doing everything possible to stop the project.

All of the uncertainty and political back and forth led to the company providing an ultimatum to the federal government: either you get B.C. in line or we will walk away from the $9.3-billion pipeline.

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WATCH: Trudeau will ‘standup’ for Trans Mountain pipeline amid B.C., Alberta bitumen battle

Click to play video: 'Trudeau will ‘standup’ for Trans Mountain pipeline amid B.C., Alberta bitumen battle' Trudeau will ‘standup’ for Trans Mountain pipeline amid B.C., Alberta bitumen battle
Trudeau will ‘standup’ for Trans Mountain pipeline amid B.C., Alberta bitumen battle – Feb 7, 2018

In the end the federal government bought the existing pipeline from Kinder Morgan with a commitment to build the expansion.

But all of this came tumbling down when the Federal Court of Appeal ruled the original approval process was flawed and didn’t include proper consultation with First Nations. The project also didn’t properly consider the impact of an increase in tanker traffic on orcas, it ruled.

The federal government has launched a new process, with no certainty yet on what will happen next.

LNG Final Investment Decision

As the Trans Mountain pipeline project’s future was in doubt, the B.C. government secured the largest private sector investment in Canada’s history.

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In October, LNG Canada announced a $40 billion investment that could bring in an estimated $23 billion in revenues to B.C. over the next 40 years.

The LNG super facility had been years in the making, but only after the NDP sweetened the deal did the province secure a final investment decision.

READ MORE: LNG Canada announces final investment decision to build export facility in Kitimat

In March, the B.C. government announced it was redoing the fiscal framework for the liquefied natural gas industry in an attempt to secure a final investment decision from LNG Canada.

WATCH (aired October 2): LNG project set to transform small BC community of Kitimat

Click to play video: 'LNG project set to transform small BC community of Kitimat' LNG project set to transform small BC community of Kitimat
LNG project set to transform small BC community of Kitimat – Oct 2, 2018

The province still needs to put rules in place that would provide a PST exemption on construction costs of an LNG facility. The government has projected that would be a $6-billion rebate for LNG Canada, compared to the framework designed by the previous provincial government.

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Former premier Christy Clark staked much of her reputation and legacy on delivering an LNG industry.

When the decision finally came for the project in Kitimat the former politician called it the “best day” of her entire professional life.

WATCH (aired October 2): ‘Today is the best day of my entire professional life:’ Christy Clark on LNG Canada deal

Click to play video: '‘Today is the best day of my entire professional life:’ Christy Clark on LNG Canada deal' ‘Today is the best day of my entire professional life:’ Christy Clark on LNG Canada deal
‘Today is the best day of my entire professional life:’ Christy Clark on LNG Canada deal – Oct 2, 2018

Chaos at the Legislature

There are still so many unknowns about what led to the clerk and sergeant-at-arms at the B.C. legislature being put on administrative leave.

It was no doubt one of the most dramatic stretches in recent provincial political history, with Craig James and Gary Lenz being escorted out of the legislature and very few details being shared about an ongoing RCMP investigation that also includes two special prosecutors.

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WATCH (aired Nov 22): Secret B.C. legislation investigation goes back months

Click to play video: 'Secret B.C. legislation investigation goes back months' Secret B.C. legislation investigation goes back months
Secret B.C. legislation investigation goes back months – Nov 22, 2018

Central to the story is Speaker Darryl Plecas.

The information that led to the two most senior officers at the legislature being put on leave originated from his office.

Plecas and his recently hired special adviser Alan Mullen had been looking into allegations involving James and Lenz since January and turned over the information to the authorities in August.

But that wasn’t the end to the twists and turns. Lenz and James hosted a press conference a week after being put on leave, telling reporters they still hadn’t been told what they were accused of doing wrong.

WATCH (aired November 26): Two top officials speak out after being escorted off legislature grounds

Click to play video: 'Two top officials speak out after being escorted off legislature grounds' Two top officials speak out after being escorted off legislature grounds
Two top officials speak out after being escorted off legislature grounds – Nov 26, 2018

Plecas then broke his silence at a scheduled meeting of the Legislative Assembly Management Committee by clashing with MLAs and lashing out at the media.

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The Speaker would not speak about the specific allegations, but said he was provided information near the beginning of his tenure as Speaker that was “very serious” in nature about activities that were taking place within the legislature.

WATCH (aired December 6): Another bizarre day in B.C. legislature scandal

Click to play video: 'Another bizarre day in B.C. legislature scandal' Another bizarre day in B.C. legislature scandal
Another bizarre day in B.C. legislature scandal – Dec 6, 2018

“When I learned of this information I felt a great duty to safeguard the integrity of this institution,” Plecas said in front of the Legislative Assembly Management Committee.

“Be very mindful of why we are all here, and that is to make sure that public dollars are sent properly. In order to protect this institution and its fundamental operations it was imperative to me to act on information that was before me. In the period that followed I gave very careful consideration to this information.”

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“I am completely confident — completely confident — that those audits will show that we have a lot of work to do here. And if the outcome of those audits did not outrage the public, did not outrage taxpayers, did not make them throw up — I will resign as speaker,” Plecas said.

Andrew Wilkinson elected BC Liberal leader

With so much unfolding over the past 12 months it is hard to remember that Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson has only been on the job since February.

The former advanced education minister and attorney general came out of a crowded field to win the top BC Liberal job after former premier Christy Clark stepped down in 2017.

The campaign did not lack controversy. Todd Stone was accused by campaign staffers for Wilkinson, Michael Lee, Dianne Watts and Mike de Jong of collecting “invalid or rejected memberships.”

WATCH: Andrew Wilkinson’s victory speech after winning BC Liberal leadership

Click to play video: 'Andrew Wilkinson’s victory speech after winning BC Liberal leadership' Andrew Wilkinson’s victory speech after winning BC Liberal leadership
Andrew Wilkinson’s victory speech after winning BC Liberal leadership – Feb 3, 2018

In the end Wilkinson escaped with victory on the fifth and final ballot defeating Watts, a former Surrey mayor and Conservative MP. Lee emerged as the surprise of the leadership campaign, finishing third after less than a year as an elected official.

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Wilkinson got straight to rebuilding the shaken party. One of his first moves was removing Mike de Jong as Liberal house leader and replacing him with Mary Polak. Long-time party stalwart Rich Coleman has also taken a back seat for the party hoping to get back into power.

The BC Liberals have also rebranded, dropping the “Today’s BC Liberals” slogan and replacing it with “Opportunity for All B.C.”

Mayoral shake up in Metro Vancouver

Change hit city halls in Metro Vancouver like a tidal wave in 2018.

All told there were 16 new mayors in the region after October’s elections, and incumbents lost elections in Burnaby, Port Moody and Pitt Meadows.

The region’s two biggest cities also have new mayors with Kennedy Stewart now at the helm in Vancouver and Doug McCallum in charge in Surrey.

WATCH (October 22): Decision 2018: New Vancouver council makeup poses challenges

Click to play video: 'Decision 2018: New Vancouver council makeup poses challenges' Decision 2018: New Vancouver council makeup poses challenges
Decision 2018: New Vancouver council makeup poses challenges – Oct 22, 2018

Stewart is the first independent Vancouver mayor since Mike Harcourt in the 1980s. He doesn’t control the votes on council, with the Non-Partisan Association (NPA) occupying five council seats and the Vancouver Green Party filling three.

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The priorities in Vancouver are pretty consistent with previous mayor Gregor Robertson, although the style of politics is already much different.

Stewart focusing in on renters, housing affordability and the ongoing opioid epidemic. He is also pushing for more transit funding that will see the now-approved Broadway subway extension go all the way to UBC.

The transit project has, in part, led to unlikely partnership between Stewart and McCallum.

WATCH (aired October 22): Decision 2018: New Surrey mayor sticks with plans for RCMP and rapid transit

Click to play video: 'Decision 2018: New Surrey mayor sticks with plans for RCMP and rapid transit' Decision 2018: New Surrey mayor sticks with plans for RCMP and rapid transit
Decision 2018: New Surrey mayor sticks with plans for RCMP and rapid transit – Oct 22, 2018

McCallum’s return to the mayor’s chair has led to a substantial shakeup in the region.

On transit, McCallum is vowing to scrap the approved light rail transit (LRT) project for his city and move forward with SkyTrain.

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TransLink’s financial numbers show the SkyTrain can’t be extended all the way to Langley for the money allocated, so the mayors of the two biggest B.C. cities are both looking for additional transit cash.

Then there is the Surrey RCMP.

McCallum is already working on a way to scrap the force and replace it with a municipal police force. Although he has only been on the job for a few months, McCallum is proving to be a big political disrupter.

The PR referendum

Three strikes and you’re out. This looks to be the end of the debate over changing the electoral system in British Columbia after voters sent a clear message they weren’t interested in change.

The No side won a decisive victory with 61.3 per cent of the vote over the Yes side’s 38.7 per cent. In the end, 42.6 per cent of eligible voters returned their mail-in ballot.

READ MORE: COMMENTARY: Why the NDP should be worried about the electoral reform referendum results

Much of the debate around changing the electoral system focused in on confusion.

The government was criticized for approving a referendum that had two questions and also included multiple versions of proportional representation that have never been tried anywhere else in the world.

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“This was a flawed process from the beginning as the NDP stacked the deck to satisfy the Green Party and remain in power,” Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson said.

“This has never been about improving our democracy, it was always about power and control.

“The rejection of proportional representation by the people of British Columbia demonstrates a clear desire to keep political power in the hands of voters.”

Money laundering

Chinese gangs. Bags of cash. The political blame game. They are all part of the ongoing problem of money laundering at B.C. casinos.

In June, former high-ranking RCMP officer Peter German released a report looking into money laundering of cash at casinos.

He found instances of gamblers bringing thousands of dollars of cash to the River Rock Casino with the inference the money was being used for illegal activities.

WATCH (aired November 29): Global Exclusive: the links between the drug trade and real estate

Click to play video: 'Global Exclusive: the links between the drug trade and real estate' Global Exclusive: the links between the drug trade and real estate
Global Exclusive: the links between the drug trade and real estate – Nov 29, 2018

Metro Vancouver has become known around the world by criminals as a place to park dirty money.

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Because of that, German suggested a specialized police force be establish to monitor gaming at casinos.

The concerns didn’t stop there, with German concluding that the housing market and the horse racing tracks were easy targets for money laundering as well.

The province now has two separate reports being put together to look into the issue.

The year ended with troubling news around addressing the money laundering issues.

Federal prosecutors stayed charges in the largest money laundering investigation in Canadian history.

The investigation started in 2015 and led to charges in 2017, which were dropped in 2018.

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