B.C.’s choice will impact Ontario
In a province prone to disruptive, geological earthquakes, British Columbia voters delivered a political earthquake of their own in Tuesday’s general election. Now, get set to feel the aftershocks in Ontario. B.C. may lie several thousand kilometres west of here, but its tectonic-plate shifting vote could have a big impact on life in Ontario.
We need to pay close attention to what just happened — to its economic threats as well as its political lessons.
The initial results of a see-saw election battle saw the governing B.C. Liberals winning the most seats — 43 — but cut down to a minority with just two seats more than the surging New Democrats.
Meanwhile, the shock of the night came from the Green party which won three seats and now holds the balance of power in the 87-seat legislature.
It’s too early to say which party or combination of parties will rule, especially because absentee votes won’t be tallied until May 22-24 and there will likely be recounts in several closely-fought ridings.
But whatever happens next, this election looks like a game-changer.
Whoever forms the next B.C. government will have a profound influence on two of the biggest issues facing this country: trade with the United States and the future of Canada’s energy sector.
After the U.S. recently imposed tariffs on Canadian lumber — hitting B.C. hardest of all — B.C. Premier Christy Clark retaliated with plans to slap a $70-atonne carbon tax on thermal coal shipments passing through her province on the way to the Pacific Ocean. Much of that coal is American. There’s a danger that Clark’s aggressive response will cause a simmering trade dispute to boil over into a trade war with Canada’s biggest trading partner.
And as provocative as Clark’s actions may be, the NDP and Greens could go further in hitting back at the U.S.
Meanwhile, plans for energy-sector growth in B.C. might be tossed into a blue box.
The Greens and NDP vigorously oppose the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline, which the B.C. Liberals support.
While environmentalists might applaud its demise, stopping this pipeline would infuriate neighbouring Alberta and dent not only its economy but the economy of B.C. That, too, has national implications. Likewise, Clark’s dream of a liquefied natural gas industry in her province supplying lucrative Asian markets could be shattered if the NDP and Greens govern.
Beyond this, the B.C. vote also has a lesson for Ontario’s two main political parties, as well as its voters, as a provincial election looms here in just over a year.
It didn’t matter that the B.C. Liberals had governed with a majority for 16 years or that the province boasted some of the best economic and job growth in Canada.
People were fed up with unethical practices such as the B.C. Liberals’ cash-for-access fundraisers, which the opposition parties rightly vow to end.
Voters everywhere are hungry for change. Business-as-usual governments are an endangered species.
The status quo — which Ontario’s Liberals and Progressive Conservatives by and large embody, regardless of who’s in power — won’t do.
The sooner the Liberals and Tories hear that message, the better for all concerned.