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B.C. Greens agree to support NDP in minority legislature

The Globe and Mail - Justine Hunter and Ian Bailey, May 29, 2017

B.C. Greens agree to support NDP in minority legislature
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B.C. Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver and B.C. NDP Leader John Horgan shaking hands on May 29-2017
Kevin Light/Reuters

B.C.'s Green Party has reached an agreement with the New Democrats to topple the government of Premier Christy Clark.

The agreement, announced by Green Leader Andrew Weaver and NDP Leader John Horgan at a news conference in Victoria, would see the Greens and New Democrats use their combined one-seat majority in the legislature to bring down the BC Liberals. The Greens would then agree to support an NDP government in confidence votes, such as throne speeches or budgets, for four years.

"In the end, we had to make a difficult decision – that decision was for the B.C. Greens to work together to provide a stable minority government for the four-year term," said Mr. Weaver.

Details of the agreement, which both Mr. Weaver and Mr. Horgan said ran "many pages," were not released on Monday.

Mr. Weaver said he and the other two Green members in the legislature have signed on, while Mr. Horgan said his caucus would vote on ratifying the agreement on Tuesday.

"We're here to make government work and that means working with all MLAs," he said. "We have a case to make that this legislature can work. It's an exciting opportunity."

What happens next could ultimately be up to the province's Lieutenant-Governor, Judith Guichon, who would be called upon if the Liberals lose a confidence motion in the legislature. Mr. Horgan and Mr. Weaver suggested a confidence vote might not be neccessary.

"The current government didn't have the support of the majority of members – we now have the majority support," said Mr. Horgan.

"We'll be making that known to the Lieutenant-Governor in the next number of days and we'll proceed from there. ... The premier will have some choices to make."

Ms. Clark did not make herself available to comment on the agreement, instead issuing a brief statement that said the agreement could have "far-reaching consequences for our province's future." The statement said the premier would consult with her caucus and have more to say on Tuesday.

"As the incumbent government, and the party with the most seats in the legislature, we have a responsibility to carefully consider our next steps," said the statement.

The announcement ends weeks of negotiations between the Greens and both parties to either prop up the Liberals or give the New Democrats the power to form government after 16 years in Opposition.

The May 9 election gave the Liberals just 43 seats in the House. The NDP have 41 seats and the Greens have three.

Ms. Clark is obliged to recall the legislature to test the confidence of the House. If the Greens and NDP defeat the government in a confidence motion, such as a throne speech or budget, Ms. Clark would be expected to resign or ask for a new election.

However, the lieutenant-governor also has the option to ask Mr. Horgan and Mr. Weaver to govern without holding an election.

Mr. Weaver had set out three "deal breakers" that include official party status, campaign finance reform and proportional representation, although other issues, including the party's opposition to several Liberal resource priorities, also would have factored into such talks.

The New Democrats have won only three elections in B.C.: first in 1972, and then again in 1991 and 1996. In the 1996, the party won a majority government despite losing the popular vote.

The province last elected a minority government in 1952. W.A.C. Bennett's Social Credit government fell the next year and regained its majority in the subsequent election.

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