Left-leaning NDP to take power in British Columbia after forging alliance with Greens

The alliance, forged after a knife-edge election, will end the 16-year reign of the centre-right BC Liberals

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 30 May, 2017, 8:09am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 30 May, 2017, 10:08pm

British Columbia’s New Democratic and Green parties announced a four-year alliance aimed at forming the Canadian province’s first minority government in more than six decades.

Green leader Andrew Weaver said his party, with three seats, has agreed to support the left-leaning New Democrats who won 41 seats in the 87-seat provincial parliament in this month’s election. Details will be released Tuesday after the pact is ratified by members of the New Democratic Party, leader John Horgan said at a news conference with Weaver in Victoria.

“We’re looking to show British Columbians that minority governments can work,” Weaver, 55, told reporters, saying the parties have ruled out forming a coalition. “We’re not looking to have an election any time soon.”

Current BC Liberal Premier Christy Clark, 51, whose centre-right party fell one-seat short of a majority, did not immediately indicate a willingness to step aside, but the decision is not in her hands, as she cannot muster the votes to maintain the confidence of the house. She has been Premier since 2013, and her party has ruled since 2001.

“As the incumbent government, and the party with the most seats in the legislature, we have a responsibility to carefully consider our next steps,” Clark said in a statement. “It’s vitally important that British Columbians see the specific details of the agreement announced today by the BC NDP and Green Party leaders, which could have far-reaching consequences for our province’s future.”

The province that boasts Canada’s fastest-growing economy hasn’t seen a party govern without a majority of the seats in the legislature since 1952. Even though minority governments aren’t unusual in Canada and a formal coalition isn’t necessary to govern, such a tight outcome is rare. The NDP-Green alliance would have only a one-seat edge over the Liberals in the legislature, which some political commentators have called unsustainable.

The arrangement makes it likely that the speaker, drawn from the ruling alliance, will be called upon to deliver deciding votes.

The Green Party and NDP share similar ideas, such as raising carbon taxes and taxing housing speculators, and their alliance is likely to cloud the outlook for Kinder Morgan Inc’s Trans Mountain oil pipeline expansion.

The issue of the pipeline expansion played a “critical” role in the negotiations for a deal and will be reflected in details of the pact Tuesday, Weaver said.

Shares in the Canadian unit of the Houston-based company are set to start trading at C$17 each on Tuesday morning in an initial public offering that’s expected to raise C$1.75 billion ($1.3 billion) . Those funds will be used to help pay for the controversial C$7.4 billion project to nearly triple Trans Mountain’s capacity, which will allow Canada to start exporting oil to Asia but is vehemently opposed by many in BC because of fears of an oil spill.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s spokeswoman Andree-Lyne Halle said the federal government would continue to “work constructively with provincial and territorial governments on the issues that matter to Canadians”.

Trudeau - whose centre-left Liberals are a different party than the BC Liberals - says the Alberta energy industry needs the pipeline to boost exports to Asia and reduce reliance on the US market. Opponents say the risks of a spill are too large.

“We will continue to do what we have done all the way, which is standing up for Alberta’s best interests. That includes Kinder Morgan and making sure we have access to tidewater for our products,” said Alberta Deputy Premier Sarah Hoffman.

Additional reporting by Reuters