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BC Liberals on the way out, but the fight isn't over

NDP leader John Horgan and Greens leader Andrew Weaver
Bradley Hughes

June 4, 2017

The BC Liberals are on their way out. After presiding over thousands of drug overdose deaths, freezing social assistance rates for a decade, keeping the minimum wage to one of the lowest in Canada, illegally increasing class sizes and laying off teachers, championing the most destructive megaprojects to enrich their corporate donors, while trampling the rights of Aboriginal people to do so, the Premier of BC is set to lose a confidence vote in the legislature as soon as it meets.
The world is a better place now then it was a month ago. After tying the Liberals for votes in the election the BC NDP has signed an agreement with the BC Greens to allow the NDP to form government. The 41 NDP seats plus the three Green seats outnumber the Liberals by exactly one seat. This is not a government that is likely to last very long.
Greens reluctantly support NDP
In order to oust the Liberals, the Greens had to be persuaded to support the NDP instead of the Liberals. Despite the horrific record of the Liberals, the only conditions that Andrew Weaver, leader of the Greens placed on either party were related to future electoral success of the Greens. His minimum demands were moving to proportional representation, equating funding from democraticly run trade unions with the corrupting influence of corporate donations and banning both, and giving the Greens party status in the legislature. After a week of negotiations with both parties, mass petitioning campaigns and a large rally at the legislature, the Greens decided to support the NDP.
Their agreement does not create a coalition government and it does not require the Greens to vote with the NDP instead of the Liberals. The agreement requires the NDP to not dissolve the government until the next scheduled election and that the Greens neither “move, nor vote non-confidence . . . so long as the principle of good faith and no surprises has been observed.”
It starts by listing some of the common priorities of the two parties:
1. Making democracy work for people
2. Creating jobs, acting on climate change, and building a sustainable economy that works for everyone
3. Fixing the services people count on
4. Making life more affordable for people
The best part (although also the vaguest) is the support for the Indigenous rights.
A foundational piece of this relationship is that both caucuses support the adoption of the UN
Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission calls-to-
action and the Tsilhqot’in Supreme Court decision. We will ensure the new government
reviews policies, programs and legislation to determine how to bring the principles of the
Declaration into action in BC.
Site C and Kinder Morgan
Unfortunately this is undermined by the decision of the two parties to stick to the NDP promise to continue construction on the Site C dam while it is sent to the BC Utilities Commission. Everyone who supports Indigenous rights must support the Treaty 8 First Nations, whose lands will be destroyed by this dam, must call on the new government to halt construction while the review is conducted. This looks suspiciously like an attempt to reach Premier Clark’s goal of getting construction to the point of no return.
Their resolution on the Kinder Morgan pipeline reflects both parties opposition to the pipeline. However, Prime Minster Trudeau has re-stated his intention that the pipeline will go ahead. The NDP Greens have agreed to “Immediately employ every tool available to the new government to stop the expansion of the Kinder Morgan pipeline.” It remains to be seen if this a deceleration of war, or an admission of defeat. The mass movements that pushed these parties into opposing the pipelines will need to keep up the pressure.
The parties have reached an unfortunate compromise on a $15/hr minimum wage. The NDP promise to implement a $15/hr wage is combined with the Green’s desire to convene a panel of experts instead. So they now agree to “Immediately establish an at-arm’s-length Fair Wages Commission that will be tasked with establishing a pathway to a minimum wage of at least $15 per hour and overseeing regular rate reviews.” This is completely unnecessary. The reasons for raising the minimum wage to $15/hr immediately are well understood and the pathway is obvious, introduce legislation. Establishing a commission can only be a tactic to delay the needed increase. Every month of delay in raising the minimum wage to $15 will cost the poorest workers in BC $600. Green party leader Andrew Weaver demanded and got recognition of the Green party in the legislature. This will increase his salary by over $26,000 a year. It’s shameful that while demanding an additional $2000 a month on top of his already bloated $108,000 MLA yearly salary, he should also require a delay in adding $600 a month to our poorest workers wages.
Both parties are sticking to their support for punitive and ineffectual carbon taxes, but at least the NDP has prevailed on including plans for rebate cheques for individuals.
The rest of the agreement contains a lot to look forward to, money for the Mayors’ transit plan, a commitment to build more schools, hospitals and other infrastructure, “promote and protect the public healthcare system,” “Develop an immediate response to the fentanyl crisis based on successful programs that invest in treatment-on-demand, drug substitution, early-warning monitoring
systems, and coordinated response,” “make post-secondary education more accessible and affordable,’ and so on.
It is time to celebrate the exit of the Liberals after 16 devastating years. But is not a time to relax. We have seen the NDP in government before, and we know they will bend to corporate demands for lower taxes, wage freezes in the public sector and so on. The Green platform was more concerned with subsidies for small business and the tech sector, than with social justice. And over the last few years Weaver voted regularly with the Liberals. Like any government, it will take strikes and demonstrations to get rid of Kinder Morgan and Site C once and for all, to get a $15/hr minimum wage, to eliminate tuition fees and restore funding to all levels of public education, to get a climate policy that includes a just transition, and to get real recognition of the rights of the Indigenous people in BC.

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