B.C.’s choice will im­pact On­tario

The Hamilton Spectator - - OPINION - John Roe

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.

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