NDP leader John Horgan hugs caucus chair Shane Simpson as the NDP caucus gathers to endorse an agreement with the B.C. Greens to support a minority government. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)

NDP prepares for chance at governing

Deal with B.C. Green Party depends on Christy Clark’s defeat or resignation

NDP leader John Horgan was greeted as a victor Tuesday at his first caucus meeting since the May 9 election, with hugs and a standing ovation among the 41 members who have reached a support agreement with the three-member B.C. Greens.

That arrangement gives the NDP and Greens a combined total of 44 seats, one more than the 43 B.C. Liberals, who met in Vancouver Tuesday to determine their next steps.

As the incumbent government with the most seats, parliamentary tradition suggests that Lt. Governor Judith Guichon would offer Premier Christy Clark the first opportunity to recall the legislature and attempt to govern with a minority.

If the government is defeated, Horgan would likely be offered an opportunity to govern with Green support before another election could be called. With either the B.C. Liberals or the NDP in charge, the government would be within a single vote of defeat.

Horgan and B.C. Green leader Andrew Weaver announced their agreement Monday, a “four-year framework” in which the Greens pledge to support an NDP government on so-called “confidence” votes such as passing a budget and a bill to supply money to the government.

“We can have a stable minority government for four years with the support of B.C. Green MLAs on confidence and supply matters,” Weaver said.

The agreement is for confidence measures only, and is not a coalition, Weaver said. There would be no Green MLAs included in an NDP cabinet.

Details of the agreement were withheld pending ratification by the NDP members, but Weaver said opposition to Kinder Morgan Canada’s Trans Mountain oil pipeline expansion from Alberta to Burnaby is reflected in the agreement.

That project has been approved by both the B.C. and federal governments, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reaffirmed Monday that it is a matter of federal jurisdiction. Alberta’s NDP Premier Rachel Notley also reiterated that B.C. does not have the authority to stop the project.

Horgan campaigned on a promise to use “every tool in the toolbox” to stop the twinning of the pipeline, which would increase crude oil tanker traffic in the Port of Vancouver to about one vessel a day.

That and other resource projects were likely sticking points in the B.C. Liberals’ discussions with the Greens for support in the minority parliament.

“In recent days, we have made every effort to reach a governing agreement, while standing firm on our core beliefs,” Clark said in a statement after the Green-NDP deal was announced.

Horgan struck a conciliatory tone in his remarks to NDP MLAs, 15 of whom are new to the legislature. He echoed Clark’s election-night comments that the nearly exact split in votes between the B.C. Liberals and the NDP is a message to all parties to work together.

“And it’s not just with Green MLAs, but with Liberal MLAs as well,” Horgan said. “I believe we have a unique opportunity, a historic opportunity to demonstrate, not just to British Columbians but to all Canadians, that people of good will can come together.”