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B.C. Greens seek 'stable minority' government, avoid triggering another election

FILE PHOTO - B.C. Green party leader Andrew Weaver is joined by elected party member Sonia Furstenau to speak to media in the rose garden following election results in Victoria, B.C., on Wednesday, May 14, 2017.
Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
May 26, 2017 - 6:00 AM

VANCOUVER - The Greens want to avoid triggering another election in British Columbia after the final results left them in the historic position of holding the balance of power in a minority government, says the party leader's press secretary.

Jillian Oliver said B.C. voters have little appetite for another election and party leader Andrew Weaver's priority is a stable minority government in which his third-place party supports either the Liberals or the New Democrats.

"We're going in this with the best of intentions to make this government work," she said Thursday. "It's not just about this point in time. This is a huge, historic opportunity to really break out of the two-party system that has failed British Columbia for so long.

"We take it really, really seriously and we're going to do everything we can to avoid (an election)."

Oliver said negotiations are becoming more serious now that the final results on Wednesday confirmed the Greens hold three seats compared with the Liberals' 43 and NDP's 41. The party's goal is to have an agreement by next Wednesday.

Ben Chin, a spokesman for Premier Christy Clark, said there's an "honest and constructive spirit of working together" in the discussions the Liberals have had with the Greens.

Carole James, an NDP member of the legislature, said she is at the negotiating table with party leader John Horgan and she is confident they can reach an agreement with the Greens.

"I'm optimistic and I think the public expects us to get this done," said James, a former party leader.

Political scientist Cara Camcastle of Simon Fraser University said if another election is held soon, voters might elect a NDP majority, which would mean the Greens lose their opportunity to influence government.

But Oliver said the Greens motivation to avoid an election is not about losing support.

"In this election our greatest obstacle was our viability. I think there's so many people who still voted strategically," she said. "I think what we see for the future is the Green party growing stronger as more people realize that it is possible to have a Green caucus."

Weaver has said his three deal breakers are official party status in the legislature, an electoral system based on proportional representation, and political fundraising reform.

He has not publicly made stopping the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion and the Site C dam conditions for the party's support as well, but Oliver said everything in the Greens' platform is being discussed.

"We have the strongest platform on environmental issues. He has really clear positions on both Site C and Trans Mountain, but nothing's been decided yet," she said.

The Green leader's top three demands show he is looking to secure his party's future, said political scientist Gerald Baier of the University of British Columbia.

"He actually is a long-term thinker. I think he sees the horizon — that they benefit from an election in three or four years, not an election in 18 months," said Baier.

"If you're resetting the rules, either in terms of campaign finance or in terms of what the electoral system's going to be, it's good to give everyone a little time to settle into that. I think he sees it that way."

Proportional representation would benefit the Greens and potentially enable the party to get 10 or more seats, but it would hurt both the Liberals and NDP, said Baier.

Horgan has said he would not change the electoral system without a referendum. Weaver has said his preference is to implement proportional representation and then after two elections hold a referendum on whether people want to keep it, said Oliver.

But asked whether Weaver would consider a referendum, Oliver said it's too early to say.

"Everything's on the table right now," she said.

James said the NDP would hold a referendum on proportional representation that would require the support of 50 per cent plus one and the party would campaign in support of the change, even though it would likely mean fewer NDP seats.

"We believe that every vote should count and that it shouldn't be about self-interest, it should be about representing the public."

— Follow @ellekane on Twitter.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2017
The Canadian Press

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