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b.c. election 2017

British Columbia's New Democrats and Greens have unveiled a plan to substantially reshape the province's political and economic landscape, joining together to stop expansion of the Kinder Morgan pipeline project and increase carbon taxes while curbing political donations and launching another referendum on the electoral system.

The measures are contained in the blueprint released Tuesday of how NDP and Green MLAs would govern after defeating Premier Christy Clark's Liberals in a confidence motion that will come by the end of next month.

The agreement will significantly affect the province's relationship with the federal Liberals and the neighbouring Alberta NDP government, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Alberta Premier Rachel Notley sharply reminding the province that pipelines are federal jurisdiction.

"With the BC NDP, I have found a partner that will actually position British Columbia in the new economy … putting people first and that ultimately, in the framework of climate solutions, is what prompted the BC Greens to work with the BC NDP," Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver said.

But first, Mr. Weaver and NDP Leader John Horgan must take down the Liberals, who are currently in government after winning 43 seats in the May 9 election, compared with 41 for the NDP and three for the Greens.

Ms. Clark acknowledged Tuesday she would likely lose a confidence motion, but said she will bring her government to the legislature before the end of June to face the defeat.

She had the option of resigning and suggesting that the Lieutenant-Governor ask Mr. Horgan to form a government.

"If there is going to be a transfer of power, and it certainly seems that there will be, it shouldn't be done behind closed doors," Ms. Clark told a news conference in Vancouver. "It should happen in public. It should happen in the people's house."

Ms. Clark added that she would not ask the Lieutenant-Governor to call a snap election.

Once in office, the NDP would be in a minority situation. The agreement with Mr. Weaver ensures that confidence motions would pass, but the two combined have only a one-seat majority, ensuring that Ms. Clark's fragile government is replaced with one only slightly less precarious. On matters not budget-related, the Greens will be free to break ranks with the NDP.

"I believe that the public wants change as quickly as possible," Mr. Horgan told a news conference at the legislature Tuesday, standing beside Mr. Weaver and backed by the 44 caucus members of the two parties.

During the provincial election campaign, the pair were at odds, but on Tuesday they were cheerfully united in proceeding. "We're anxious to get going," Mr. Horgan said.

Mr. Horgan noted that no transition documents have been provided to his team by the public service to help prepare for a change of government, so there is a paucity of detail in their plans to co-operate.

"If we were asked today to form a government, we would have no information to base our decisions on. There's a lot of work that needs to be done but can't be done until the current government, or what's called the incumbent government, is defeated."

The agreement establishes the basis for the Greens "to provide confidence" in an NDP government.

"It is not intended to lay out the full program of a New Democrat Government, nor is it intended to presume BC Green support for initiatives not found within this agreement," the document says.

The alliance is intended to run until May, 2021, though the two parties are proposing to shift the date of the next election to the fall of 2021 and every four years after that to provide a more transparent budget process and the passage of a budget before the election.

While the pair said they will fight the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline, they did not get into specifics about how they would do so beyond making sure that permitting issues have been addressed.

Mr. Weaver suggested that Section 35 of the Constitution, which protects aboriginal and treaty rights, would offer some tools, but he was not more specific.

The text of the deal says a "foundational piece" of the relationship is that both caucuses support the adoption of the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission calls to action and the Tsilhqot'in Supreme Court decision. The agreement also commits to providing the Green Party with the resources that come with official party status, normally reserved for a party with four seats. The issue was a key condition of Green support.

On campaign finance, the parties plan to ban corporate and union donations and contributions from non-residents of B.C. They would impose limits on individual contributions, accept loans only from banks or recognized financial institutions and eliminate any other means "by which individuals or entitles may wield undue influence over government."

They will also conduct a review of campaign financing and the Elections Act.

They are also proposing to increase the carbon tax by $5 a tonne per year, beginning on April 1, 2018. And they will establish an arm's-length commission to establish a pathway to a minimum wage of at least $15 an hour.

There has also been some compromise on issues.

The Greens, who wanted the $8.8-billion Site C hydro project in northern B.C. scrapped, have concurred with Mr. Horgan's approach of submitting it for review by the B.C. Utilities Commission and abiding by its conclusions. On that issue, Mr. Weaver said talks were "very amicable and very hard at times."

Also, while the Greens have called for the enactment of proportional representation followed by a referendum on the issue, the partners have now agreed to a referendum first in the fall of 2018 and the new system enacted, if passed, would be in place for the 2021 provincial election. Both parties will actively campaign for a Yes vote. British Columbians have twice rejected electoral change in referendums.

Under the deal, the NDP would not request dissolution of the legislature during the term of the agreement except after the defeat of a motion of confidence, but the Greens are committing to not bring down the government as long as the principle of good faith and no surprises has been observed.

While individual bills, including budget bills, will not be treated or designated as matters of confidence, the overall budgetary policy of the government, including moving to the committee of supply, will be treated as matters of confidence, the agreement says.

NDP-Green agreement by The Globe and Mail on Scribd

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