BC Politics

One Year In, Green-NDP Still Co-operating and Government Gets Good Marks

Policies show the benefits of minority governments and pro rep, says Green MLA.

By Andrew MacLeod 3 Jul 2018 |

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee's Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Find him on Twitter or reach him here.

For BC Green Party MLA Sonia Furstenau, last week’s report calling for changes to how natural resource management decisions are made shows what a minority government can achieve.

“It’s a full circle feeling for me,” said Furstenau, the MLA for Cowichan Valley. “Stuff does change. It was not a campaign issue for the NDP when they ran... but it was very important for us.”

It’s just over one year since the government of Christy Clark lost a confidence vote, with the NDP being sworn in as government on July 18. After 16 years in opposition and an election that saw the BC Liberals win 43 seats, the NDP 41 and the Greens three, the NDP came to power thanks to Green support.

For Furstenau, the decision to reach an agreement with the NDP instead of the BC Liberals hinged on the lack of trust that had developed as she and others in her community fought to stop the dumping of five million tonnes of contaminated soil in her community’s watershed.

“We were a symptom of something that wasn’t working very well,” she said, adding the experience motivated her to run for provincial office.

Reviewing the decision-making model for such projects became an important part of the confidence and supply agreement that the Greens reached with the NDP, setting the conditions for the change in government.

With the report in from University of Victoria environmental law professor Mark Haddock, Furstenau said she will be working to ensure the recommended changes are made and that public trust in natural resource management decisions can be restored.

It’s a story of how collaboration can generate good policy and how a minority situation can be more productive than adversarial, winner-takes-all politics, she said.

It’s also an argument for voting in favour of moving to a system of proportional representation in the fall’s mail-in referendum, Fursteneau said. A system where seats in the Legislature more closely reflect the share of the popular vote parties get would result in more minority governments, and that’s positive, she said. “Suddenly collaboration is essential to moving forward.”

There’s no question it’s been a busy year for the B.C. government. The centrepiece was the February budget that included new money for child care, housing and education, while eliminating Medical Service Plan premiums and introducing taxes on expensive real estate and vacant homes.

Other major policy shifts have included eliminating tolls on the Port Mann and Golden Ears bridges, freezing and reducing ferry fares and setting a plan for raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour. The government weathered a decision to continue with building the Site C dam on the Peace River, an issue that split its supporters.

At the end of May, when the CBC’s Justin McElroy reviewed the status of 122 identifiable promises from the NDP election platform, he found the government had substantially kept 75 per cent of them.

Sarah Khan, who as a lawyer at the B.C. Public Interest Advocacy Centre was central to the effort to introduce affordability measures at BC Hydro, said there’s been a huge shift. “The difference we’ve seen on the B.C. Hydro front is the government made a commitment to implementing discounted rates for low income BC Hydro ratepayers,” she said.

The former government allowed mines to delay paying for up to 75 per cent of the power they used, but offered no break to people with low incomes who might be struggling to pay for electricity. “That was really disturbing for us,” Khan said. “They showed no interest. I never heard them talk about it.”

The government can be criticized on some files, Khan said, but it has been busy and steps like reintroducing the Human Rights Commission are important.

“I think the new government has done a lot of really positive things… They’re certainly taking advantage of being elected and having this coalition government to get some things done that really needed to be done in this province. It’s laudable.”

Will Horter said the results have been mixed on the issues he pushed for over the years at the Dogwood Initiative. He welcomed the campaign finance changes that banned corporate and union donations to parties and capped contributions from individuals, though he observed there are still gaps in the regulations. He said he’d also like to see action on coal mining and exports.

Horter said the government has taken steps to stop the expansion of the Trans Mountain Pipeline, but has fallen short on the pledge to use “every tool in the toolbox” to block it. “They’re playing the public game very well but they’re not doing all that they can.”

It is impossible to know how long the government will last. With numbers so tight in the Legislature, it would only take one or two NDP or Green MLAs being unable or unwilling to participate in a vote to bring the government down.

Green leader Andrew Weaver has threatened to bring down the government if it proceeds with approving a liquefied natural gas facility. Nanaimo MLA Leonard Krog has said he will run to be mayor of Nanaimo in the fall election. If he wins, he’ll resign as MLA and force a byelection.

Furstenau is committed to make the Green-NDP agreement work. While she says she’s not happy with every decision the government has made, she adds the best thing for the province is stable, evidence-based, collaborative government.

The removal of big money from provincial politics is a “huge game-changing step” and increased restrictions on lobbyists are positive, she said. Along with electoral reform, “those are all things that ideally work to strengthen democracy.”

There’s more to be done to fix the child welfare system, ideally so it does a better job providing the nurturing and support that would help heal the results of generations of colonial policies, she said.

It’s also time to embrace a low-carbon economy and take advantage of the opportunities that industry presents, she said, adding that the opportunity to participate in developing a climate plan is exciting.

Voters sent a clear message with the split result in last year’s election, Furstenau said. “There is a responsibility to work hard to make that work and be cognizant our duty is to the citizens first and foremost.” If the MLAs and their parties can do that, she added, the government will be in place until 2021.  [Tyee]

Read more: BC Politics

Share this article

The Tyee is supported by readers like you

Join us and grow independent media in Canada

Get The Tyee in your inbox

Tyee Commenting Guidelines

Do not:

  •  Use sexist, classist, racist or homophobic language
  • Libel or defame
  • Bully, threaten, name-call or troll
  • Troll patrol. Instead, downvote, or flag suspect activity
  • Attempt to guess other commenters’ real-life identities


  • Verify facts, debunk rumours
  • Add context and background
  • Spot typos and logical fallacies
  • Highlight reporting blind spots
  • Ignore trolls and flag violations
  • Treat all with respect and curiosity
  • Stay on topic
  • Connect with each other


The Barometer

What do you think? Time to fully extend the subway to UBC?

Take this week's poll