Notley vows to work with all three parties in B.C.
Green Party holds the balance of power, and their position on pipelines is obvious
And the winner is …
Andrew Weaver, leader of British Columbia’s Green Party. And the loser is … Rachel Notley, premier of Alberta.
Even though we won’t know for another few weeks the official results of British Columbia’s squeaker election, we can draw a few conclusions already.
It’s fair to say the Green Party was a big winner even though it captured just three seats out of 87.
The B.C. Liberals won 43 seats and the NDP 41. Neither captured the 44 seats necessary to form a majority government. They are both, arguably, losers. The Greens hold the balance of power.
With its paltry three seats, the Green Party tail will be wagging the B.C. legislature dog.
And when it comes to barking at energy pipelines, this dog might be a little rabid.
Weaver has pledged to do all he can to stop the expansion of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline to pump more Alberta bitumen to the West Coast for shipment to Asia.
That’s why Notley is arguably a big loser in the B.C. election.
She was quietly, and desperately, hoping Christy Clark’s propipeline Liberals would win a clear victory over John Horgan’s anti-pipeline NDP.
Even if the NDP had won, she was hoping to work with her New Democratic cousins to finagle some sort of deal that would have seen the pipeline get built.
Instead, Notley gets what might be the worst possible outcome.
B.C. has a neutered Liberal government with the NDP nipping at its heels and the virulently anti-pipeline Green Party holding the whip over both.
Clark is still premier, after B.C.’s lieutenant-governor asked her on Wednesday to form a government, albeit a minority one.
But Clark is a premier on a very short legislative leash that could yet become a noose.
She’ll need the support of the Green Party on an almost daily basis.
We don’t know yet how that will work out.
Weaver could offer his support on a day-to-day basis or hold out for a cabinet post (but it’s doubtful he’d want to tie himself so closely to a politician as vulnerable as Clark).
At the very least, Weaver could ask Clark to agree to two of his election platforms: outlaw political contributions from unions and corporations; and hold a referendum on electoral reform.
And then there’s the issue of the Trans Mountain pipeline.
Technically, trans-provincial pipelines are a federal responsibility, not provincial. And the federal government has already given conditional approval to the Trans Mountain expansion.
However, a province can create all kinds of mischief on projects it doesn’t like such as issuing chronic court challenges or suddenly discovering there’s not enough provincial electricity available to power pumping stations.
It’s not likely a premier would lie down in front of a bulldozer, but you have to wonder if that’s beyond the possible when it comes to a Green Party leader.
This teeth gnashing over the results might yet be moot if the official results give the Liberals a clear majority. Indeed, a recount may give them the riding of Courtenay-Comox that they lost by just nine votes.
But even a bare majority of 44 seats presents a problematic scenario, too.
If Liberals vote one of their members to be Speaker, they’re back to a 43-seat minority government. If they vote in an opposition member as Speaker, they lose control of the legislative assembly. And what happens if the opposition parties refuse to have one of their members become Speaker?
If the recounts were to give Liberals 45 seats and one became Speaker they’d have just enough, 44, to form a functioning government. But then Clark would be open to blackmail whenever a disgruntled backbench MLA threatened to jump ship.
Even if the count remains as is with a Liberal minority government, it won’t last long. Minority governments historically blow up within 18 months.
That wouldn’t automatically lead to a new election. B.C.’s lieutenant-governor could decide to let the NDP have a crack at forming a minority government supported by the Greens.
It’s difficult to see how Notley and her NDP government can be anything but a loser from Tuesday’s election in B.C.