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

Edmonton Journal - - FRONT PAGE - GRA­HAM THOM­SON gth­om­son@post­media.com

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.

Rachel Not­ley

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