It’s not much of a secret that Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government wanted to see Christy Clark re-elected this week as premier of British Columbia. Clark may not be their particular brand of Liberal, but she’s on the same shelf as Trudeau when it comes to important federal-provincial files.
It’s why the Prime Minister’s Office chose to publicly release Trudeau’s message to Clark in the dying days of the campaign that he’s seriously considering her request to ban American shipments of thermal coal through B.C. in retaliation for the Trump administration’s new duties on softwood lumber.
It’s why Trudeau was quick to call Clark on Wednesday after her B.C. Liberals came out on top but one seat short of a majority with absentee ballots and at least one judicial recount still to be done before the results are final.
Asked what he told her, the prime minister said, “Congratulations,” and that he looked forward to continuing to work together.
“I understand there’s a few issues to work out, but you know, we want to continue to work in ways that benefit the citizens of British Columbia and all Canada.”
But first Clark’s win has to be confirmed.
As it stands, B.C. will have its first minority government since 1952, and the wheeling will soon begin to see whether Clark’s Liberals or the second-place New Democrats led by John Horgan can do some dealing with the B.C. Green Party and form a government.
Either way, the uncertainty poses a risk for the federal government’s approval of Kinder Morgan’s expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline, and its approval of the equally controversial Site C hydroelectric dam on the Peace River in northeastern B.C.
Clark ardently supports Site C and endorsed Trans Mountain in January after claiming her five conditions were met.
Trans Mountain, in particular, is a showpiece of the Trudeau government’s pledge to balance resource development with reducing climate-changing emissions. Ditto for Alberta’s NDP premier, Rachel Notley, who needs a pipeline to the coast for oilsands bitumen in return for bringing in a price on carbon.
An NDP government in B.C., bolstered by the Greens, is not the preferred option.
“The NDP in power in British Columbia would have caused some gastric discomfort not just for the federal Liberals in Ottawa but also next door for the NDP government of Alberta which, of course, is pro-pipeline,” said pollster Shachi Kurl, executive director of the Vancouver-based Angus Reid Institute.
“We’ve all heard John Horgan say that on Kinder Morgan he would come down as a ‘no’ on that one, and on some other major resource developments. From a who-do-we-want-to-work-with perspective, this may be a gut-check on the part of the folks in Ottawa…