Questions linger around new B.C. gov 

Official swearing in to take place July 18

click to enlarge WWW.SHUTTERSTOCK.COM - CHANGING OF THE GUARD After two months of uncertainty, B.C.'s new NDP/Green government will be sworn in on July 18.
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  • CHANGING OF THE GUARD After two months of uncertainty, B.C.'s new NDP/Green government will be sworn in on July 18.

More than two months since the May 9 provincial election, British Columbia's new NDP/Green government will officially be sworn in on July 18.

Can the province expect some stability under its new leadership — the first shift in power in 16 years?

"Probably a little bit. It will come at a cost," said David Moscrop, post-doctoral fellow at Simon Fraser University.

"The Liberals will try to be as obstructionist as they can. The NDP will probably have to respond by effectively trying to ram everything through with omnibus bills, which is too bad, but they'll be able to get some things done that way."

While NDP leader and soon-to-be-Premier John Horgan and Green leader Andrew Weaver have committed to a four-year partnership, Moscrop believes the pact is unlikely to go the distance.

"The average length of one of these minority governments, more or less, is 18 months," he said. "B.C. is a little more unstable because it's so close, really just down to one seat, effectively."

As for first priorities, British Columbians can probably expect movement on issues like campaign financing, electoral reform, $10/day childcare and raising the minimum wage.

"That said, they're fairly complicated things," Moscrop said. "I do think it will be a bumpy ride. You've got to learn to manage not just the legislature but this particularly tricky legislature... you can't really make mistakes."

With so much uncertainty in the air, there is some anxiety among the business community, said Dan Baxter, director of policy development with the BC Chamber of Commerce.

"We're definitely getting that sense from our membership — they're anxious," Baxter said. "They want to make sure that whatever government is in place is stable and can be effective, because that gives more certainty in terms of decisions."

Issues like housing affordability, tourism and growing the provincial economy as a whole rather than in silos will be front of mind moving forward, he added.

The Chamber will be keeping an eye on the $15 minimum wage as well.

"It's not so much the number that is the concern — business owners across British Columbia have never had a problem with the minimum wage going up — it's just making sure that it's done in a certain, predictable way and not increasing too fast," Baxter said. "It definitely has an impact on the bottom line for a lot of small business owners to incorporate those increases into their business model, and that usually means either having to increase their prices, which might not be an avenue for them, or they also could look at scaling back the number of hours of their employees."

From an environmental standpoint, projects like the Woodfibre LNG plant in Squamish may face a stickier approval process under a revamped BC Oil and Gas Commission.

"I still don't see it going anywhere. The economics of the industry have tanked and they're likely to stay that way for a long, long time," said Eoin Finn, director of research for community group My Sea to Sky, which has long been opposed to the Woodfibre plant planned for Howe Sound.

Moving forward under B.C.'s new government, the group will aim to firm up the lack of social licence around Woodfibre, and take a more positive approach to the protection of the Sound, Finn said.

"The last thing we need is to go dormant for several years and then the next project to industrialize Howe Sound pops up and we are caught napping," he said, adding that the group would like to work with similar minded organizations to come up with a proactive planning approach for the Sound.

"Our version of it would be very much oriented towards the tourism use and recreational use, and I guess other voices might speak for a more or less industrialized affair, and some voices will speak for no development at all," he said. "We'd like to see the regional governments take the lead and come up with an agreeable future for Howe Sound."

While enhanced daycare is something many parents could likely get behind, it may be easier said than done in Whistler.

The Whistler Children's Centre is experiencing the same issues as many local organizations and businesses: a lack of qualified employees caused in part by insufficient housing options, said acting executive director Claire Mozes.

"$10/day childcare would help families tremendously, which is a great thing for all," Mozes wrote in an email. "However from what I understand it will take 10 years to implement completely and therefore won't be an immediate fix of the issue here in Whistler."

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