Opinion Column

The Duel

Voters reject B.C.’s version of Stephen Harper

By Garth Mullins, The Duel

(From Left) B.C. Liberal Leader Christy Clark, Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver and NDP Leader John Horgan pose before the televised leaders debate on April 26, 2017. (B.C. Broadcast Consortium/Supplied)

(From Left) B.C. Liberal Leader Christy Clark, Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver and NDP Leader John Horgan pose before the televised leaders debate on April 26, 2017. (B.C. Broadcast Consortium/Supplied)

Topics

This week's question:  Is Christy Clark redeemable?

Who won the election? It’s still too soon to say. But it wasn’t Christy Clark.

B.C. Liberals had all the advantages of incumbency, major newspaper endorsements and big corporate donations. Yet, 60% of B.C. voters rejected Clark’s Wild West capitalism built on stagnant wages, spiralling housing costs and slashed services.

Clark clung to a minority of legislature seats. She could squeak back into majority territory once 176,000 absentee ballots are totalled and votes recounted in a couple ridings.

But most electors voted NDP or Green. Together, they’re a Clark-toppling majority. Coalition governments are totally legitimate under Canada’s Westminster parliamentary system. But Clark may try to convince us that they’re undemocratic.

That’s exactly what Stephen Harper did nearly a decade ago. And Clark is B.C.’s Harper. In 2008, federal opposition parties agreed to form a coalition federal government to unseat Harper’s minority ruling Conservatives.

Read Brent Stafford's column here.

Harper’s ministers started falsely declaring that coalitions are “undemocratic,“ “a kind of coup d’etat” and “a deal with the devil.” Harper relied on voters not understanding our obscure rules of government. Then, he closed parliament, thwarting a vote that would have dissolved his government. Harper ruled for another seven long years.

Clark has since hired Harper’s political operatives and uses his playbook. If she calls a NDP-Green coalition a dodgy backroom deal, it’s just not true.

But Green leader Andrew Weaver could also decide to form a coalition with B.C. Liberals. Weaver has frequently signalled his affinity for Clark and animosity for the NDP’s Horgan. Last election, Clark even took out a full-page newspaper ad, promoting the Greens. But Green supporters won’t forgive Weaver for propping up a government at odds with their own environmental platform.

Green supporters should remind Weaver how his federal counterpart faced a similar situation in 2015. Then, Green MP Elizabeth May focused on booting out Harper. Today, removing Clark must be the priority.

If no two parties can support each other, we could be back at the polls pretty soon.

During this interregnum, government is on pause. Clark’s nominal overdose crisis response is in stasis as key cabinet posts have become vacant. Justice Minister Suzanne Anton was defeated and Health Minister Terry Lake retired, thousands having died on his watch. Whoever comes next must do better.

If absentee ballots and riding recounts don’t give Clark a majority, the NDP and the Greens need to coalition-up and start repairing the damage.

Garth Mullins is a broadcaster, activist, writer, musician and trade unionist. He’s at www.garthmullins.com or @garthmullins.