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Comment: Green Party sees chance for a new era in B.C. politics

As published in the Times Colonist on Sunday, June 11th.


On June 22, 87 MLAs will take their seats in the legislature. Some are returning to serve their sixth or seventh term, and many others are just beginning their first. All will serve in a new era of B.C. politics.

British Columbians voted for a minority government, with the B.C. Greens holding the balance of power. In the days that followed, all three parties acknowledged that this presents an historic opportunity to do politics differently.

The results of this election are a clear opportunity to break with the bad habits of the past — political calculation, polarized debates and cynical decisions that prioritize the interests of big-money donors — and to work together to put forth good public policy that will make a difference in the lives of British Columbians.

In order to make these changes a reality, British Columbia needs a stable government. The Green caucus was faced with the responsibility of determining which of the other two parties we would support in forming this government. After lengthy discussions with both parties, we came to an agreement with the B.C. NDP that will provide stability while enabling collaboration across party lines.

Our agreement is based fundamentally on the principle of “good faith and no surprises.” We made this basis of our agreement not only to ensure that we can maintain a stable minority government for four years, but also so that this stability is founded on trust and collaboration.

The principle of good faith and no surprises has enabled minority governments from New Zealand to Scotland to collaborate to enact good public policy.

If all MLAs honour their commitment to work together, it will work for B.C., too.

This begins with a new way for developing policy. Under our agreement, the NDP is required to consult with our caucus as it crafts policy. Through these consultations, we will evaluate their proposals and provide input so that it can earn our support. There will be times when we support legislation introduced by the NDP, and times when we do not, because we will evaluate each bill on an issue-by-issue basis.

Our agreement identifies many areas where we agree on principle, from banning donations of big money, to reforming our electoral system, to reinvigorating our forestry sector, to making sure our children have the public education resources they need to succeed.

British Columbians can expect to see action on these issues in the early days of their new government.

While we will collaborate on many issues with the NDP government, we will remain a distinct caucus. There are many other policy areas where the Greens will advance ideas not shared with other parties. Our caucus ran on a bold, principled platform with a strong vision for B.C., and we will work hard to implement its best ideas.

We will also consider legislation proposed by the other opposition caucus, the B.C. Liberals, and support their bills if we believe they are in the best interests of British Columbians.

In the previous government, we worked with the Liberals to advance legislation to require that post-secondary campuses develop sexual assault policies. Together, we also banned employers from requiring their employees to wear high heels. These examples prove that when we work together across party lines to advance the interests of the people we all serve, government is at its very best.

But before all of this can happen, a new government must be formed.

Christy Clark, as leader of the incumbent government, has indicated that she would like to follow protocol and test the confidence of the house with a throne speech. The first step in following protocol is to elect a Speaker from the government. If the premier is serious about following protocol and working together across party lines, the Liberals will put forward a Speaker and introduce a throne speech in a timely manner.

The Green caucus will honour our agreement with the NDP and support them in forming government.

The first sitting of the house presents an opportunity, perhaps once in a lifetime, to do politics differently. We look forward to working with our colleagues on both sides of the house to uphold our commitment to serve the people of B.C. who entrusted us with their vote.

Andrew Weaver, Sonia Furstenau and Adam Olsen are the three members of the B.C. Green caucus.

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