Okay, everyone agrees that soon-to-be-ex-Premier Clark’s “Who Cares About Principles” throne speech was a product of sleazy politics and blatant self-interest. However, two questions arise immediately.
- How Could a Supposedly Astute Politician Do Something so Stupid?
Well, the short answer has to do with believing your own PR. When politicians rule for too long, they first stop listening to the people, and then stop listening to anyone but their own friends. And the Provincial Liberals have been saying for so long that an NDP-Green coalition will never last past the first week/month/six months that they have come to believe it. They are counting on it so much that they have started campaigning for the coming election. I mean, what else can they do?
Of course, they could be right. The Greens aren’t technically a left-wing party. They have a non-political agenda of their own. But that leads us to the second question.
- What if the Government Does Last?
The biggest motivator for the two parties to keep it together is the promise of electoral change. Both would profit, although for the Greens it is essential. Think of it. With the present system, the Greens, at 16% of the popular vote, have less than 4% of the seats in the Legislature. All other factors staying equal, (which they won’t; the Anything But Christie element was a big factor in the past election, and hopefully will never come again) a proportional representation system would give them a fourfold increase in seats. Official party status, increased parliamentary budget, etc. etc.
So if you were John Horgan, wouldn’t you dangle the possibility of electoral reform in front of Andrew Weaver for as long as you possibly could, in order to stay in power for as long as you can? Which leads us to a new question, the one that the future of BC politics rests on:
- What Will Happen if They Actually Do It?
Let’s assume that the Horgan/Weaver alliance lasts long enough to enact some kind of proportional representation system. What will politics look like in BC?
Up until now, BC has been one of the most polarized provinces in the country. A large number of business-oriented people fiercely supported the mis-named Liberals, and a smaller number of socialists supported the NDP. A larger-than-average swing vote of moderates were happy to allow the Liberals (because, after all, they were liberal, weren’t they? Hah!) to govern until they got completely above themselves and selected a dictator (Bill Bennett, Gordon Campbell) to rule.
Discovering that the voters were upset, the Liberals would then switch to someone “completely different” (Bill VanderZalm, Christie Clark) who was also completely unsuited to the position, and win the next election on a platform of “change.” (Remembering that half the voting public is of below average intelligence.)
Eventually that person would demonstrate his or her ineptitude and the public would figure out what was going on and turf the Liberals out, allowing the NDP to rule for a short stretch, when they would demonstrate their weaknesses (Dave Barrett [too socialist for his own good or ours] and Glen Clark [too fanatic for anybody’s good]) and give them a well-deserved heave-ho and the game would start all over.
Looking at other jurisdictions with proportional representation (like the whole rest of the developed world) we see that minority parties take on much more importance. The serial autocracy that Canada and US take as a matter of course disappears. Majority governments are rare, so you can’t plan to get elected and then do exactly as you please (Stephen Harper, the BC Liberals, and, hopefully, the Federal Liberals, please take note.)
Which means, in terms of the BC politiscape, the Green Party will often find themselves in a power-broker situation, because the new system will not give the NDP any more votes. In fact, it will give them less, but they can always combine with the Greens to get a majority of seats. So they will be in power more often. That’s pretty obvious, but what will happen on the right side of the spectrum is much more interesting.
The Right Wing
The effect of Christie’s blatant grabbing of any and every platform plank that might get her re-elected had not been without its dangers. Right-leaning members of the “Liberals,” who aren’t liberal at all, have been scared silly.
Enter the Provincial Conservatives.
Under the first-past-the-post system, a lot of right-wing people have reluctantly voted for the Liberals, who were, at least, business friendly. Otherwise they would waste their vote because the Conservatives didn’t have a chance. But with proportional representation they can vote Conservative like they always wanted to, confident that their party has a chance to be the power broker that gives the Liberals a majority.
The end result of this will be a provincial political scene with four viable parties, in which the Conservatives and the Greens hold the votes of a reasonably stable percentage of true believers, and the Liberals (who become truly liberal, ie. wishy-washy centre left) and the NDP continue as they always have (perhaps a bit more centrist wishy-washy farther left), with a much better chance of forming a government once in a while.
And the great winners will be the voters, who will find that, finally, their votes actually count, and the party(ies) in power actually have a majority of the popular vote. And who would have thought that BC would lead the way!
We can dream, can’t we?