In a decision imbued with angst and uncertainty, B.C. Lieutenant-Governor Judith Guichon on Thursday gave the BC NDP the chance to form government. Now comes the hard part for a party that has been out of office for 16 long years.
Ms. Guichon's declaration was by no means a given. And she undoubtedly has grave doubts about how the NDP is going to make parliament work with a slim one-seat majority. The NDP really hasn't explained how it can pass legislation without compromising the independence of the Speaker, who will have to cast votes in the event of a tie.
And in a 43-43 legislature, there will be ties all the time.
Still, the Lieutenant-Governor obviously felt duty bound to give the NDP a chance. It may last one month, six months, three years. No one knows. But it's difficult imagining it will be a long time. The NDP inherits a treasury that is overflowing with cash. There should be no need for deficits in the near future, that's for certain.
It's about as enviable a fiscal situation a new government could hope to inherit.
What is not clear at this early stage, is just how aggressive an NDP government, with the help of the three-member Green Party, is going to try to be on the policy front, given the unstable circumstances under which it has to operate. It seems campaign-finance reform will be an early priority, however, given the electoral advantage the current system has bestowed on the Liberals for years.
The NDP will want to rectify that as early as it can.
Strategists in the Liberal Party are already imagining a scenario in which the NDP governs for six to nine months, a period during which it showers Metro Vancouver and the hinterlands with goodies. Then it finds a way to get defeated at the hands of the Opposition, forcing an election no one else wants.
Expect plenty of these types of conspiracy theories over the coming months.
Just as likely, however, is the NDP falling in fairly short order because a one-seat majority is impossible to make work. The Liberals are almost certain to throw up procedural roadblocks at every turn.
They will not like the taste of being in Opposition and do everything in their power to get back to their old seats in the legislature.
What this means for Christy Clark's future is uncertain. She has vowed to stay on as opposition leader. She will likely remain in the job in the hopes the government soon falls, giving her the election she wanted Ms. Guichon to call on Thursday. The longer the NDP makes its government work, the harder it becomes for Ms. Clark to keep control of her caucus.
There is nearly as much at stake for the NDP, however.
After years on the Opposition benches, the party has a lot to prove. It will be a chance for it to shed some of the baggage it picked up during its decade in power in the 1990s. The party will need to demonstrate fiscal discipline. It will need to foster investor confidence, not let it slide.
On that front it has a key ally in an old friend: Glen Clark.
The former NDP premier is now running Jimmy Pattison's empire. He understands the wants and wishes of the B.C. business community as well as anyone; he is now a key part of it. He will certainly be an important counsel to John Horgan, letting the NDP Leader know when his policies, or policy proposals, are creating anguish in the corporate community.
It would appear that Mr. Clark has already enlisted the help of his boss, Mr. Pattison, to help build a bridge between the business community and the arriving NDP government.
Later this month, the billionaire is supposed to be hosting a meeting with Mr. Horgan and key business leaders. This has angered many Liberals who feel Mr. Pattison is betraying them.
Mr. Horgan will soon be announcing key staff appointments in his office. He likely has already started composing a potential gender-balanced cabinet in his head. This will be tricky.
He has enormous bench strength, however. Carole James. Adrian Dix. Mike Farnworth. All will play key roles in a government that has been waiting for this moment for a long time.