NDP to form government in British Columbia, Liberals out after 16 years

BC premier-designate John Horgan. Image: BC NDP

VICTORIA _ The NDP will form a minority government in British Columbia after the Liberals were defeated Thursday in a non-confidence vote in the legislature, sending them to the Opposition benches for the first time in 16 years.

Premier-designate John Horgan emerged from a meeting with Lt.-Gov. Judith Guichon to say he was asked to form a government after reaching a deal with the Green party on a legislative agenda.

Horgan, 57, had a wide smile on his face, his supporters erupting into cheers as he announced he believes he can command the confidence of the house.

It's been more than seven weeks since the provincial election and asked about the moment, he said: "It's been a roller coaster."

Horgan said Guichon wanted assurances that the continuity of the legislature will continue.

"I assured her I would do my level best to make sure that continuity continues," he said.

Horgan said his first priorities will be helping the softwood industry after the U.S. slapped punitive tariffs on lumber, the opioid overdose crisis and boosting resources for the education system before the start of the next school year to comply with a Supreme Court of Canada ruling.

"We want to make sure that the services people count on are there for them when they need it," he said. "We want to make sure, most importantly, that we continue to grow as a dynamic, diverse province, the envy of Canada."

The BC NDP and Greens previously signed a four-year political manifesto with a long list of ambitions to run the province, including a new voting system and a ban on corporate and union donations.

Together they will also seek to stop Kinder Morgan's $7.4 billion pipeline expansion project and require further reviews of the $8.8 billion Site C hydroelectric dam.

The parties said they would use "every tool available" to stop the expansion of Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain pipeline, and would refer the Site C dam, which is already under construction, to the B.C. Utilities Commission to determine its economic viability.

Horgan couldn't say precisely when the NDP will be able to swear-in a cabinet and begin the task of governing, but indicated he wants to act quickly.

His fledgling government faces hurdles because even with the support of the three Green members of the legislature, the NDP can only count on 44 votes in the 87-seat assembly, putting them in a precarious position.

No members of the legislature broke ranks in the confidence vote as the Greens backed the NDP to defeat Christy Clark's government.

The Liberals lost the vote 44-42.

Guichon issued a short statement to say she had accepted Clark's resignation.

"I have asked Mr. Horgan to form a government, he having assured me that he can form a government which will have the confidence of the legislative assembly," it said.

© 2017 The Canadian Press