By now, most BC voters have woken up to the news that the Elections BC Final Count has confirmed that there is a minority government for the foreseeable (short term) future.
By the time this blog is widely read, Andrew Weaver will have announced his short term intentions to temporarily prop up one of the two parties who received the vast majority of votes, and public support, from the electorate.
The popular vote indicated a razor thin margin of arguable victory for the reigning Liberals – but the fact that the Liberals are one tantalizingly seat deficient in the legislature alters the political landscape in BC’s future, short term and possibly long term.
Unquestionably, Christy Clark’s Liberals overstayed their welcome. The Liberals ignored ‘due diligence’ on many fronts, appointing party friends and supporters to key government ‘fat cat’ positions and allowing pay for access supporters to ‘feed at the trough’. The Site ‘C’ dam and the questionable deals done with friendly interests on high visibility projects such as the replacement for the George Massey tunnel are a couple of obvious illustrations.
Most importantly, the ‘entitlement’ mentality and the obvious disdain for opposing points of view will ultimately cook Christy’s goose – maybe not in time for Christmas 2017, but certainly no later than Christmas 2018.
John Horgan’s NDP, on the flip side, wants the taste of power so badly that it will probably find ways to justify compromising its principles – and the strength of its left wing base, by agreeing to terms and conditions that will ultimately come back to bite the NDP in the derriere.
In the meantime, Andrew Weaver and his two supplicants will hold court regularly – even though they are not the de facto choice of the vast majority of the voter population.
Such is the nature of a minority government – a phenomena not seen in BC for more than half a century. The nature of minority governments is that they collapse sooner or later, and in BC in 2017, the smart money is on sooner.
Weaver’s Greens have announced three major issues on which they will rest their decision to provide tacit support, to either the Liberals or the NDP.
- Official Party status for the Greens. Probably a no brainer as it really represents separate offices, a working budget and a very slight relaxation of the minimum 4 MLA current requirement.
- Removing the ‘Wild West’ virtually uncontrolled access to big money funding from corporations, unions, lobby groups and ‘party friends’ who have contributed (invested) multi millions of dollars in political contributions to ensure that their respective voice is heard above others and often, contrary to the public interest.
- Proportional Representation so that the percentage of the popular vote will translate almost directly into the percentage of the seats each Party will hold in the legislature.
How will this play out?
It seems obvious that either Christy Clark (as long as the Liberals choose to prop up her tenuous hold on Liberal Party leadership) or John Horgan will throw the Official Party status bone to the Greens.
The imposition of restrictions on corporate, union and lobbyist donations is almost a certainty as it is probably among the single biggest reasons that the Liberals did not gain a majority in this 2017 election – and the Liberal Party’s forensic autopsy on the election results will certainly highlight this obvious inference. Reluctantly (but not too reluctantly since the Liberals have enhanced their party war chest by more than $12 Million last year and at least a further $2 million in 2017) the Liberals will allow a committee to recommend controls on political party contributions. After all, it is likely that the election war chest for the Liberals has the availability of millions of dollars to fight the next election.
The NDP are also benefactors of substantial contributions, mainly from union sources, including the civil service, even resources from large American unions. While reluctant to lose this ‘largesse’, Horgan and the NDP’s will assent to Weaver’s demands in order to secure power, however short-lived.
The matter of Proportional Representation is an entirely different matter.
Both the Liberals and the NDP enjoyed a tantalizingly close glimpse at majority government under the current system. Both the Liberals and the NDP recognize that the introduction of Proportional Representation will virtually ensure minority government coalitions as the new reality, given the fractured (and fractious) nature of politics in BC.
Neither the Liberals nor the NDP will actually work co-operatively with Weaver and the Greens to achieve this end, no matter the rhetoric and slow, plodding steps and/or pledges that may appear to lead in that direction.
At the end of the day, both the Liberals and the NDP will make careful, guarded statements and perhaps indicate that they are working toward an assessment of the proportionate representation model and its implementation. Both, however, will follow the footsteps of the increasingly disingenuous Justin Trudeau who also promised electoral reform – but never delivered.
Both the Liberals and the NDP will see that the prospects of majority government are dangling invitingly just a few short months (12 to 18 months in my estimation) away as the coalition involving the Green Party erodes and ultimately disintegrates, forcing an early general election.
Both the Liberals and the NDP have sufficient resources on hand to fight a quick election and both are obstinate enough and confident enough in their own odds to allow a quick election rather than to pander to Andrew Weaver and the Greens any more than is necessary to convene the next legislature.
So just what is going to transpire?
- The Liberals will replace an unpopular Christy Clark with a new leader who will emerge in time to re-energize the Liberal Party base and attract voters who could not stomach a vote for Clark in the 2017 election.
- The problems of uncontrolled political donations will become a ‘non issue’ as both major parties are adequately funded and will grudgingly agree to restrictions that will still benefit the Liberals and the NPD more so than the fringe parties, including the Greens.
- Andrew Weaver will play ‘King Maker’ to grandiose applause for a short period of time – and then his bombastic pronouncements will become ‘old’, both in the eyes of the public and in the estimation of the Liberals or the NDP, whichever party Weaver has chosen to ‘favour’ with his conditional support.
- Horgan will be allowed to lead the NDP into the next provincial election as he sees that he was ‘so close’ to gaining the majority that the NDP so desperately crave (and need) in order to foist its damaging uneconomic agenda on an unsuspecting public.
- Fringe parties, including the BC Conservatives, will ‘wither on the vine’, with insufficient resources (including time and money) to mount an effective campaign in a short election turnaround.
- BC voters will return to the polls no later than the spring of 2019, and quite possibly, the fall of 2018.
- Proportional Representation will not be a reality for the next election.
Such is the nature of politics in BC. Short will be the reign of the King or Queen. Short will be the reign of the King Maker, Andrew Weaver. Such is the fleeting Power of Three.
No independent MLA’s were elected this time around. The next election should be very polarizing with many voters aligned to their respective political parties, knowing that a majority in the legislature was within spitting distance for both the Liberals and the NDP. Should it transpire that the performance of Andrew Weaver and the Greens is distasteful and unacceptable to unaligned voters, perhaps it will be three or more independent candidates who can hold the balance of power in the next sitting of the legislature.