The May 9 election yielded a razor-slim margin of a few thousand votes for Christy Clark’s Liberals over the NDP. And the Liberals only had about 75% of the votes that went to the NDP and Greens. Taking into account non-voters, fewer than one in four eligible voters (23%) voted Liberal. And yet the Liberals may be able form a government for the next four or five years, keeping the NDP and the Greens on the opposition benches.
Yet, contrary to media reports of a “Liberal minority,” receiving the most seats does not guarantee that a party will form government. If the NDP and Greens reach an agreement, the NDP or a coalition could form government instead. Canadian federal and provincial history has precedents, and we have had more than 40 minority governments.
But is such an agreement possible here and now? Much of the BC punditocracy declares that it is impossible, because the two parties leaders are cross with one another, or that they have prickly personalities, or something. But retweeting hot takes and election rhetoric only gets you so far, and reaching an agreement about governing is about more than finding a new BFF. The party leaders know it’s about maximizing wins for their base, and it starts with finding similarities in policy platforms.
It turns out that the NDP and Green parties are relatively close on a range of key policy points, for example:
- Campaign finance and electoral reform – both parties want to eliminate donations from companies and unions, and the Greens want proportional representation (PR) while the NDP would hold a referendum on PR.
- Childcare – both want low-cost or free childcare. The NDP wants $10 / day childcare, and the Greens want it to be free for under-3’s and free for 25 hours for under 5’s.
- Minimum wage – NDP wants $15 / hour, and Greens aim for a living wage (generally a bit higher).
- Income security – The Greens want to immediately phase in a basic income program while the NDP want to see incomes rise for social assistance, disability and low-wage workers.
- Education – both parties want to tackle student debt and increase funding to education and related programs.
- Raw log exports – both parties want to reduce raw log exports in favour of adding value-added processing jobs in BC.
- Affordable housing – both want major investments in affordable housing, in the hundreds of millions of dollars, and both want to tax and deter the speculation from driving up prices.
- Indigenous persons – both parties support the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Persons.
- MSP – both want it gone within a firm timeline, the NDP halving it now and eliminating it in 4 years, the Greens eliminating it now.
- Income taxes – both parties want increases to rates for corporations and high-income individuals.
- Carbon tax – both want to ramp it up ahead of the federal deadlines, while investing in green initiatives.
These are just some of the opportunities for win-wins in an agreement between the NDP and the Greens. Overall there is a significant lack of alignment with the Liberal party on almost all of these issues.
The negotiation is vitally important. Bearing in mind, of course, the two parties’ BATNA – best alternative to a negotiated agreement – is four or five more years of Christy, and a platform that was not chosen by the majority of voters.