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It’s not yet a done deal, but expectations are already shifting in B.C. politics

For all his talk about being open to a deal to keep the provincial Liberals in power, B.C. Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver surely knew even as he uttered the words how far-fetched the idea actually was.

He'd spent the past four years castigating the government of Christy Clark for her failed record on the environment. He denounced her LNG ambitions as fraudulent. He was steadfastly against construction of the Site C dam, which Ms. Clark championed, and the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion, to which she ultimately gave her blessing, as well. He railed against the moral corruption inherent in campaign-finance laws that helped the Liberals fill their party coffers to overflowing.

Yes, he had supported some of their budgets. But in part that was intended to demonstrate the Greens applauded good fiscal stewardship, which the Liberals' balance sheets over the past five years had certainly demonstrated. While the Green Party benefited from some Liberal protest votes in this recent election, it was not those people Mr. Weaver was worried about when it came to making a decision about what to do and who to join forces with in forming government.

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He was worried about the Green base, the people making it clear to him how devastated they would be if he decided to prop up a party that had been in power 16 years.

Norman Spector, a political adviser to prime minister Brian Mulroney and B.C. premier Bill Bennett, was part of the Green Party negotiating team that reached a deal Monday to support a New Democratic Party government. He tweeted: "Ultimately, @BCGreens recoiled [sometimes physically] at the prospect of supporting a Liberal government."

The Greens had much more in common with the NDP policy wise, and ideologically. That was always evident. While there might not have been instant chemistry between NDP Leader John Horgan and Mr. Weaver, it was never going to be enough of a problem to send the Green Leader running into the arms of Ms. Clark.

Now the fun begins.

We won't know until Tuesday exactly what the NDP and the Greens have actually agreed to. Campaign-finance reform is a given. So is concerted opposition to Kinder Morgan. The two sides are hoping they can demonstrate that minority governments can work and, in the process, sell a skeptical public on the merits of electoral reform.

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As for Ms. Clark, she sent out a statement saying she will consult with her caucus and decide on what to do. Her options would appear limited. Knowing she doesn't have the numbers to keep a government afloat, she can either go see Judith Guichon, the Lieutenant-Governor, and inform her of this political fact and resign, or make the NDP-Green alliance defeat her government in a vote of no-confidence. The first opportunity for that would be the Speech from the Throne.

I'm not sure what Ms. Clark gains from forcing the issue in the legislature, but maybe it is worth it. Who knows, there could be some unforeseen incident that instantly changes the calculus. The Liberals have been in power a long time. They are not going to want to rush to give up the perks to which they've become accustomed. Ms. Clark had been saying that the election result was a signal from the public that it wanted politicians in Victoria to work across partisan lines. We'll see how well that works assuming the NDP takes power with the help of the Greens.

Mr. Weaver and Mr. Horgan both said the hope is that they can keep a government going until the next election in four years. Good luck with that. Minority governments, most with more breathing room than the NDP has, typically last under two years. The NDP has a one-seat edge over the Liberals with the Greens' three-seat help. That will undoubtedly restrict the scope and ambition of this government, which will always be one unexpected event away from falling.

They should, however, have enough time to bring in legislation that will have a long-lasting impact on the dynamic of B.C. politics, such as campaign-finance reform. The next election campaign in the province could look radically different than this recent one as a result of what took place in Victoria on Monday afternoon.

But it will not be all fun and games. Expectations in the province have already begun shifting. Mr. Horgan and Mr. Weaver hadn't even publicly announced their deal when the NDP-friendly B.C. Teachers' Federation sent out a news release asking for more money for the education system. And so it begins.

It's easy to say yes when you're in opposition. If the NDP does form government, it is going to need to start getting good at saying no.

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