Every provincial election offers the voters of B.C. an opportunity to shape the legislature they want for the next four years. In this 2013 election, barring any unforeseen shifts in popular opinion, the NDP will be elected to a majority government. But the question is how large a majority and what kind of alternative voices will be elected to hold the government to account as the official Opposition.
Election 2013 is anticipated to fit the electoral pattern of the pendulum effect, where the balance of power in the legislature swings to the extreme opposite of its current make-up. In 1991, B.C. voters brought down the Socred government and elected a majority NDP government. In 2001, the electorate rather decisively removed them and elected a majority Liberal government. And in 2013, it is expected that the NDP will be reinstalled as a majority government.
This pattern, which is perpetually motivated by the revelation of major scandals, may be momentarily satisfying, but does not result in real change. The legacies of the B.C. NDP government of the ’90s and of the B.C. Liberals since 2001 are similar. The provincial debt is one example. The B.C. NDP inherited a provincial debt of $17 billion in 1991 and doubled it to $34 billion. Under the B.C. Liberals, that debt has increased to between $50 and $65 billion depending on whether we include contractual obligations. The management of B.C. Ferries is another example; the NDP brought us the fast ferries fiasco, and the Liberals privatized B.C. Ferries, which has lead to systemic unprofitability. Our natural resources have also fared similarly with the NDP’s war in the woods and the Liberal’s “working forest” legislation, which has meant the loss of jobs, increased industry consolidation, and a cyclical boom-and-bust economy that is so damaging to forestry-dependent communities.
This year, judicious choices could make it more likely for voters get at least some of what they deserve by electing Green MLAs who will keep a majority NDP government in check. Greens are bound by a set of Ten Principles and a Code of Representative Conduct that strictly set limits and expectations on our members. We believe that a cooperative, collegial, and nonpartisan approach to governance is essential in the legislature. Our fundamental motivation is to serve and represent the people of our individual electoral districts first, followed by people throughout B.C.
B.C. Greens do not believe in a whip system that imposes strict party discipline on elected representatives so they toe party lines. Although we would endeavor to reach consensus as a group, requiring that our members agree or telling them how to think, what to say, and how to vote is counter to our values and counter to the fierce independence and deep sense of responsibility we each hold.
Greens espouse solid policy and believe those ideas can lead to transformative change. We will challenge the government to consider not only the ideas we hold as a party, but also the ideas that come from constant public engagement and consultation—and from the dedicated public service within government. Only together will we make the transition to a more inclusive and resilient B.C.
This election could represent a new shift in B.C. politics: a sort of a communal outcome that happens as enough voters move to support a party that demands we do politics differently. A Green vote can tactically shape not just the next legislature, but also the culture of politics in B.C. and, indeed, the future of B.C.