Liberal MPs in B.C. could be among biggest losers in Green-NDP alliance

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      A day before the B.C. election, Toronto Star national-affairs columnist Chantal Hébert wrote a column outlining how the campaign was being seen by federal and provincial politicians.

      She suggested that Alberta premier Rachel Notley, Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne, and Quebec premier Philippe Couillard all wanted Christy Clark to remain B.C. premier.

      Notley knows her political future rests on the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion proceeding, and Clark supports this.

      Meanwhile, Couillard recognizes that if the Kinder Morgan pipeline were to be built, it would lessen pressure on Ottawa to approve the Energy East pipeline. This would make his life easier.

      According to Hébert, Wynne could have benefitted from a Clark victory because this would get Ontario Liberal supporters more mobilized for the next campaign.

      The stakes were especially high for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who's positioning himself as an opponent of rising greenhouse gas emissions by supporting a carbon tax. At the same time, Trudeau is endorsing three oil pipelines, including the Kinder Morgan project.

      "To claim some measure of success for that approach in the 2019 election, Trudeau ideally needs at least one pipeline to tidewater to come off the drawing board between now and then and a national consensus behind his plan to impose a floor price on carbon," Hébert wrote.

      The B.C. Green party's decision to back an NDP minority government in B.C. could throw Trudeau's political strategizing into disarray.

      If Lt.-Gov. Judith Guichon allows NDP Leader John Horgan to become B.C. premier, he'll try to prevent the pipeline from going ahead. And if the federal government doesn't capitulate, it sets the stage for a very interesting federal election in B.C. in 2019.

      The recent provincial results showed that pipeline-supporting candidates fared extremely poorly in most of coastal B.C. And that's where the federal Liberals elected 16 of their 17 B.C. MPs in 2015.

      Consider how much worse it could get for the Trudeau Liberals if the NDP and Greens decided to cooperate at the federal level to kibosh the Kinder Morgan pipeline.

      Let's say, for the sake of argument, that the NDP chose not to run a candidate in Saanich-Gulf Islands, allowing Green Leader Elizabeth May to sail back into Parliament. In return, the Greens might say that they won't run candidates against NDP incumbent MPs.

      Would New Democrats be willing to sit out the race in Vancouver Centre to allow Green councillor Adriane Carr to take on long-time Liberal MP Hedy Fry?
      Stephen Hui

      Take things a couple of steps further.

      Imagine if the Greens and NDP divided up Vancouver along these lines: New Democrats run in Vancouver Granville, Vancouver Quadra, and Vancouver South without Green opponents in return for letting Green councillor Adriane Carr run unopposed by any New Democrat in Vancouver Centre. It might leave former NDP Vancouver Centre candidate Constance Barnes feeling left out, but she didn't even come close to beating Fry in 2015.

      May would love to be joined by Carr in Parliament. And the national Green leader just might be willing to give up competing in all other Vancouver ridings if there's a chance of Carr winning.

      As a result, the NDP's Mira Oreck would stand a much greater chance in a rematch against the Liberals' Jody Wilson-Raybould.

      A green-orange partnership could also leave Liberal MP Joyce Murray vulnerable, given her party's support for the Kinder Morgan pipeline.

      The Greens would also love to elect Lynne Quarmby in Burnaby North-Seymour, where Liberal Terry Beech is likely to lose because of the pipeline. Let's say the NDP chose not to contest this riding in return for running unopposed by Greens in Burnaby South, Burnaby-New Westminster, Surrey Centre, and Surrey-Newton.

      The NDP isn't going to want to let North Burnaby go, but sometimes you have to give up something to get other things in return.

      The Greens could also be given a crack at West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country without having to face an NDP candidate. The NDP is never very competitive in this federal riding. And this could leave the NDP free of pesky Green candidates in Steveston-Richmond East, Fleetwood-Port Kells, Coquitlam-Port Coquitlam, Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge, and Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon, where the party has a chance of winning.

      I'd recommend that the NDP run a candidate in Delta, particularly if Jagmeet Singh becomes the next leader, because the NDP peformed so well in North Delta in the recent B.C. election.

      Suddenly, things would look a lot grimmer for the Trudeau Liberals. It could cost them a majority government.

      If the NDP and Greens are serious about stopping the Kinder Morgan pipeline, which poses such a threat to the B.C. economy, they're going to have to stop fighting one another in the next federal campaign and start focusing on their real enemy. That's the Liberal-Conservative pro-pipeline consensus, which is aided and abetted by the central Canadian media.

      The NDP's Mira Oreck might have a better chance of defeating Jody Wilson-Raybould in Vancouver Granville if there was no Green candidate in the race.

      Over the longer term, I expect the political axis to shift in B.C. from a left-right dichotomy to a divide between those who are are preoccupied with urgency of addressing climate change versus those who aren't. Many millennials count themselves in the former camp.

      New Westminster-Burnaby NDP MP Peter Julian, Victoria NDP MP Murray Rankin, Port Moody-Coquitlam NDP Fin Donnelly, and Green Leader May have been putting climate change at the top of their political agendas for quite some time.

      Others, including Trudeau, place global warming in the midst of a broad list of concerns, notwithstanding this spring's shocking floods in Montreal and Kelowna and last year's forest fire in Fort McMurray. For Trudeau, this issue is not going to intrude on his efforts to defeat Conservatives in Alberta.

      Still others, like Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, appear to be unconcerned about rising greenhouse gases.

      In an effort to woo millennials, Trudeau will try to paint Scheer as someone who doesn't take the climate seriously. But that won't resonate nearly as much in B.C. if there's an orange-green alliance to point out how eagerly Trudeau is supporting pipelines.

      It's just over two years from the next federal election. The Green-NDP provincial alliance is a good start for those who hope to block the Kinder Morgan pipeline. But to finish the job, there also needs to be an green-orange working relationship at the federal level. 

      Will any of the federal NDP leadership candidates have the courage to pick up this ball and run with it?