NDP cool to Liberals, romances Greens amid election uncertainty

NDP Leader John Horgan said Tuesday that British Columbians voted for a change of government last week and that he’s focused now on negotiating a deal with the B.C. Green Party to make that happen.

Horgan said he has spoken with both B.C. Liberal Leader Christy Clark and B.C. Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver since the election, but that talks are more active with the Greens.

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“We are in discussions with Mr. Weaver’s group, our staff and their staff,” Horgan said.

“I have no such relationship with the B.C. Liberals.”

Clark remains the premier, but neither she nor Horgan won a majority of seats, leaving open the possibility that one of them could work with Weaver in a minority or coalition government.

The Liberals currently have 43 seats to 41 for the NDP and three for the Greens pending the outcome of the absentee and final vote counts next week.

A change in Courtenay-Comox, where the NDP has a nine-vote lead, would give the Liberals a bare majority in the 87-seat legislature.

Horgan said he expects the seat split to stay where it is and is optimistic that the NDP and Greens can reach an agreement.

“We both care about public education,” he said. “We both care about the environment. We have a climate action plan that is similar to theirs. We both support proportional representation. We both support getting big money out of politics. So there’s much that we agree on.”

Horgan said the message of the election was that a majority of voters did not support the B.C. Liberals, who have been in power since 2001.

“I think the message from where I come from is that almost 60 per cent of those that cast ballots, with many more to come, said, ‘I don’t believe you’re working for me. I think you’re working for your donors. I think you’re more focused on fundraising than you are on governing.’ ”

“I think that was the message that I heard, and I understand Ms. Clark didn’t hear that message.”

Clark emerged from a Liberal caucus meeting Tuesday saying the message from voters was that they wanted politics done differently in B.C.

“They want us to work across partisan lines. They want to see a new way of us achieving the goals that we have in common and we share so many goals in common with people from across the political spectrum.

“My message to all of those British Columbians is: We are listening. We have heard your voice.”

Clark noted the Liberals won the most seats. Liberals are “humbled” and “grateful for what British Columbians have asked us to do,” she said.

She said she has had “good” conversations with Weaver and Horgan and pledged to continue those talks.

“Whether or not we stay at 43 seats or end up with 44 seats, once everything is all counted we will work collaboratively with all of the other parties,” she said. “And, let me be clear, that discussion, that collaboration, that change in the way government operates starts with me as your premier.”

Clark declined to comment on what policies she might be prepared to change or what projects might stall as a result of discussions with other parties. “I don’t know the answer to any of those questions yet,” she said. “We are in a unique time in British Columbia’s history; we don’t have the final result of the election yet.”

Clark has named Brad Bennett, son of premier Bill Bennett and grandson of premier W.A.C. Bennett, to head her transition team.

Weaver announced that Norman Spector, deputy minister to Bill Bennett and chief of staff to prime minister Brian Mulroney, will join the Green team that will negotiate terms for a potential NDP or Liberal minority government. Weaver, Cowichan Valley Green MLA Sonia Furstenau and chief of staff Liz Lilly are the other members of the team.

lkines@timescolonist.com

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