10 Potential Game-Changers in B.C.’s NDP-Green Agreement

After three weeks of nail-biting, British Columbians finally have a clearer sense of what’s in store for the province as the NDP and Greens released their cooperation agreement today.

The 10-page agreement establishes the basis for the Greens to “provide confidence” in an NDP government. Translation: the agreement lays out what the NDP agreed to in return for the Greens guaranteeing to support NDP budgets and confidence motions.

And boy oh boy, is there ever a lot of gold in this document. Here are 10 of the biggest potential game changers on the energy and environment file.

1) Kinder Morgan is In For a Fight

The agreement doesn’t mince words where Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline is concerned. It says the parties will “immediately employ every tool available” to stop the project.

In a press conference Tuesday, Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver countered arguments that B.C.’s prosperity relies on an oil pipeline project: “The idea that a pipeline is going to create jobs in this economy is a myth.”

“I think British Columbians are frankly sick and tired of hearing that the economy of the 21st century is the economy of tomorrow.”

Clean Energy Canada estimates that, with a well-designed clean growth and climate strategy, 270,000 jobs would be created in B.C. by 2025.

2) Site C Dam Will Be Sent for Review

The $9 billion publicly funded Site C hydro dam has been beleaguered by questions about cost and demand. The project will be sent to the B.C. Utilities Commission immediately for review of its “economic viability” in context of the “current supply and demand conditions.” Asked whether construction will be halted while the project undergoes review, NDP leader John Horgan said work will continue. The review will be completed on a six-week and three-month timeframe.

3) Revitalize the Environmental Assessment Process

This one sounds super geeky, but could go a long way to restoring British Columbians’ faith in environmental reviews and, ultimately, allowing for the right kinds of responsible resource development. The federal government is also in the process of reforming federal environmental assessments, so the timing is right.  

4) Increase Carbon Tax

The agreement lays out a $5/year increase to the carbon tax beginning in April 2018. This will get B.C. to the federally mandated carbon price of $50/tonne by 2022. The plan also includes expanding the tax to what are known as “fugitive emissions,” which are currently wildly underestimated and untaxed. The parties have also committed to creating a plan to actually meet B.C.’s climate targets (what an idea!).

A 2015 study by Clean Energy Canada and Navius Research found that strong climate leadership would attract an additional $5 billion of renewable energy investment to British Columbia over the coming decade.

5) Transit Funding

The parties will work together to “act immediately to improve transit and transportation infrastructure” to “reduce emissions, create jobs and get people home faster.” This is a pretty vague one, but the fact it made it into the argument makes it clear that it’s a priority.

6) Emerging Economy Task Force

Has a task force ever changed the world? We’re not sure, but we like the sound of this one, which will be charged with developing made-in-B.C. solutions to address the changing nature of business over the next 10 to 25 years.

7) Goodbye GDP, Meet GPI

The agreement also commits to developing a genuine progress indicator, or GPI.

This is a really interesting commitment that represents a fundamental shift to a different way of measuring progress. Right now, we tend to rely on gross domestic product numbers, or GDP. But here’s the thing: when there’s an oil spill, for instance, that can offer a big boost to GDP, but not necessarily be good for society. A genuine progress indicator takes into account health care, safety, a clean environment and other indicators of well-being.

8) Referendum on Proportional Representation

Legislation will be passed during the first session of the legislature, requiring a referendum on proportional representation in the fall of 2018, in tandem with municipal elections. The agreement also stipulates that both parties will campaign in favour of the change.

While there’s been debate about whether the change should be put to a referendum, if successful, this represents perhaps the biggest game-changer of all.

9) Banning Big Money & Lobbying Reform

This one is also huge. In the first session of the legislature, the Greens and NDP will co-operate to pass legislation that will ban corporate, union and out-of-province donations to political parties. The legislation will also place a limit on individual donations. So at long last, B.C. is about to join the rest of Canada in putting limits on what money can buy.

The agreement also outlines lobbying reforms that will prevent lobbying by former politicians for several years after holding office.

Bonus: legislation will also be passed to require a fall and spring sitting of the legislature each year — which means our politicians will actually have to, you know, go to work (Christy Clark cancelled the fall sitting in 2016).

10) Relationship with Indigenous Peoples

The agreement begins by stating that a “foundational piece of this relationship” is that both caucuses support the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and the Tsilhqot’in Supreme Court decision.

The Tsilhqot’in became the first indigenous peoples in North America to officially win title to their land with a Supreme Court decision in 2013. Still, that hasn’t stopped the First Nation from having to fend off mining projects supported by the B.C. Liberals.

Much lip service has been paid to UNDRIP (we’re looking at you Trudeau and you Notley), so we’ll have to watch closely to see how that commitment plays out in B.C.

Image: Green party leader Andrew Weaver and NDP leader John Horgan at the signing of the parties' Supply and Confidence Agreement. Photo: BC NDP via Flickr

Emma Gilchrist is a reporter, editor, public speaker and spreadsheet-keeper. She started her journalism career more than 15 years ago…

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