NDP, Greens announce pact to put NDP in power (Updated)

Greens, NDP announce four-year agreement for a minority NDP government

John Horgan's BC NDP Party won two fewer seats than the Liberals, but Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver plans to make him premier.

Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver plans to make NDP Leader John Horgan premier of B.C.

In a joint press conference Monday May 29, Weaver and Horgan announced a formal four-year agreement that will see the Greens supporting an NDP minority government.

The agreement will not be a formal coalition, the two party leaders said. The Greens will hold no cabinet positions, but will support the NDP through a four-year confidence and supply agreement.

The Liberals won 43 seats in the May 9 election. The NDP won 41, the Greens 3.

Weaver said his caucus supports the agreement. The BC NDP caucus will vote on the agreement tomorrow (May 30).

Weaver said the decision to support the NDP over the Liberals was not an easy one and came after several days of negotiations with both the NDP and Liberals.

“In the end, we had to make a difficult decision,” Weaver said. “A decision that we felt was in the best interest of British Columbians today, and that decision was for the BC Greens to work with the BC NDP to provide a stable minority government over the four-year term of this next session.”

"We have, over the course over the past number of days, since the final vote last Wednesday, made it clear that the current government did not have the support of the majority of members," Horgan said. "We now have, with our 41 members and the three Green members, the majority support in the Legislature. We'll be making that known to the lieutenant-governor, in the next number of days, and we'll proceed from there.

“I am very excited about the prospect of delivering to the people of British Columbia what they voted for on May 9, and that was change. Sixty per cent of the voters that cast votes voted for change and we are going to be able to give that change as a result of the agreement reached between the BC Green caucus and the BC NDP caucus.”

Horgan will not automatically become premier. A series of steps are needed to formally install the NDP as the governing party.

Clark issued a brief statement Monday saying she plans to meet with her Liberal caucus before announcing what she plans to do.

"In recent days, we have made every effort to reach a governing agreement, while standing firm on our core beliefs," Clark said. "It's vitally important that British Columbians see the specific details of the agreement announced today by the BC NDP and Green Party leaders, which could have far-reaching consequences for our province's future.

"As the incumbent government, and the party with the most seats in the legislature, we have a responsibility to carefully consider our next steps. I will consult on those steps with the newly elected BC Liberal caucus, and have more to say tomorrow."

It's no slam dunk that Horgan can simply go to the lieutenant-governor and convince her to remove Clark as premier and install the NDP as the governing party.

“The lieutenant-governor should be guided by the confidence of the house, not by speculation about what the confidence of the house is, even if it seems pretty sure,” said University of BC political science professor Gerald Baier. “The lieutenant-governor’s on much stronger ground today to let the house meet and defeat her (Clark) than the other way around.”

In other words, unless Clark decides to simply step aside, the Legislature will have to convene and Clark will have to be defeated first, likely in a throne speech, before Horgan’s minority government could be installed.

But the first order of business when the Legislature convenes is the election of a Speaker of the House.

If Clark decides to go down swinging and play hardball, she could whip her caucus not to stand for that position.

That would force either the NDP or Greens to offer up a speaker. That would mean a 43-43 split, with the speaker having to play the role of tie-breaker on a regular basis.

“The speaker would have to be casting deciding votes fairly regularly if the Liberals were to stay united on this," Baier said. "It’s not quite constitutional crisis territory here, depending on what Clark decides to do, but it could get a little tricky.”

The terms of the agreement struck between the NDP and Greens is for four years. Details of the agreement are to be released Tuesday, May 30.

“We’re not looking to have an election anytime soon,” Weaver said. “We’re looking to show to British Columbians that minority governments can work, and what better way to show that proportional representation could work by showing that a minority government can and will work in the best interest of people throughout its session.”

The NDP and Greens share common ground on a number of issues, including putting up roadblocks to the $7.4 billion Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

“This issue of Kinder Morgan was one that was critical to us, and I think you’ll see that reflected in tomorrow’s announcement," Weaver said.

At least one major government capital works project that would be dead under the NDP is the $3.5 billion George Massey Tunnel replacement project. Both the NDP and Greens campaigned against it.

Both also pledged to send the Site C dam to the BC Utilities Commission for review. Both the Greens and NDP support universal day care, and eliminating or replacing Medical Services Premiums. Both also support raising B.C.'s carbon tax, though the Greens' plans are more aggressive than the NDP's.

Horgan pointed out that a supply and confidence agreement does not mean that every bill put forward by the NDP will pass or that every bill put forward by the Liberals will fail.

"That's not to say that every bill that's brought forward by New Democrats will pass, and that's not to say that bills brought forward by Liberals or Greens cannot get the majority support of the Legislature," Horgan said.