BC NDP leader John Horgan stared into the Legislature and the 87 seats within alongside BC Green Party leader Andrew Weaver on Monday afternoon.
“It’s going to be different in there,” said Horgan.
The two party heads came together to announce an agreement between the two that will allow the NDP to govern with a minority for the next four years.
While the two party leaders agreed to the deal on Monday morning at a joint press conference live-streamed by the CBC, it needs to be ratified by the BC NDP party caucus.
“We are looking to show British Columbia that a minority government can work,” said Weaver.
While the agreement means Greens will support the NDP on all confidence items, such as budgets and supply items, Horgan said may not mean all bills will get the support of Weaver and the Greens, noting that the Legislature is an adversarial place.
“I believe passionately in this institution,” Horgan said. “It’s infectious to have new people here.”
It’s a blow for BC Liberals, who were one seat shy of a majority government after being in power with four consecutive majorities since 2001. On Wednesday, Premier Christy Clark confirmed she will recall the Legislature in the next few weeks to test the confidence of the house during a press conference in Vancouver.
If the Liberals can’t pass a confidence vote, which is likely given the agreement between the NDP and the Greens, Lieutenant Governor Judith Guichon will approach Horgan form government.
Following Clark’s press conference, both Weaver and Horgan publicly signed the agreement after it was ratified by the NDP caucus and released the terms of the deal.
The agreement is only for issues relating to budget and supply; any legislation that does not relate to confidence is not subject to the terms and support will be decided by an issue to issue basis.
The deal stipulates that the BC NDP will consult the Greens on the broad legislative program, major policy issues, and budget parameters.
In terms of the specific issues, the agreement outlines:
• Democratic reform and the establishment of a referendum on proportional representation in 2018.
• Electoral finance reform to ban corporate and union donations and review campaign finance legislation and the Elections Act.
On climate change:
• Implement a $5 increase per tonne on the carbon tax beginning April 2018.
• Refer the Site C dam project to the BC Utilities Commission to review economic viability.
• Employ every available tool to stop the expansion of the Kinder Morgan pipeline.
• Establish a Fair Wages Commission to establish a pathway to $15 minimum wage.
• Reinvigorate forest sector to improve environmental standards and jobs.
On government services:
• Introduce an essential drugs program to reduce cost of prescription drugs.
• Invest in care for seniors.
• Respond to mental health and addictions crisis with a dedicated Minister responsible for developing strategies to tackle the issue.
• Fast track funding for K-12 education system.
•Improve quality and quantity of spaces for early childhood education.
Read the full text of the agreeement
Tom Shypitka, a BC Liberal candidate who who was elected in Kootenay East, said the deal between the Greens and the NDP was ‘a little shocking’ and that it means the province is heading into unknown territory.
“We’ve never been in this situation before, so anything is new I guess,” Shypitka said. “I would just like to say mostly that I know we negotiated in all fairness and I thought we tried to find some common ground. Quite honestly, I’m proud of the BC Liberal government for sticking to our guns, so to speak, and sticking up for the principles and the fundamentals we believe in.”
Like everyone else, Shypitka is interested in seeing the terms of the deal between the Greens and the NDP, which should be released later on Tuesday. The Liberals are gathering in Vancouver for a caucus meeting the same day.
“I think we’ve got some soul-searching to do as well,” Shypitka said, “and I think British Columbians have to see what the conditions and the details of the arrangement between the BC Greens and the NDP. I think British Columbians deserve to see those and I think we’ll see those in the next little while.”
Reaction from local NDP and Green candidates who ran for office in Kootenay East focused on common interests between the two parties.
Randal Macnair, the NDP representative, said the agreement between the two parties is a good thing.
“Sixty per cent of British Columbians voted for some kind of change and that’s what they got, so I think that although it’s a very thin minority as far as the seats are concerned, as far as the confidence of British Columbians, it’s very strong,” Macnair said.
“Fifty seven per cent of British Columbians voted for either the NDP or the Green Party and ironically, that’s not the kind of confidence we’ve had in the house in many, many years.”
Both Macnair and Yvonne Prest, the Kootenay East Green Party candidate, noted electoral reform such as proportional representation will likely be a hot-button topic for both parties.
“I think proportional representation would be amazing,” said Prest, “and if we can show in the next four years that a minority government can work well, that people can collaborate and agree and move forward on big decisions, I think it can be a really bright future for our province.”
Prest added she is looking forward to the Green Party holding a bigger say on how government approaches large industrial projects such as the proposed Kinder Morgan pipeline.
Macnair praised the cooperation between the two parties and said Horgan and Weaver will put British Columbians first.
“John is a real person. He gets people, he cares deeply, and he’s really smart,” Macnair said. “In my experience with him, he knows a lot about many of the issues and he can speak articulately from education to energy policy and that’s the kind of thing you want in a leader, in a premier — someone who can see the big picture.
“I know Andrew a little bit as well and he is also a big-picture thinker. Obviously, the house is an adversarial place but the energy I saw there was a positive energy about a couple people who have a lot in common who can work together.”