Daniel Fontaine thinks John Horgan should have struck while the iron is hot.
Editor’s note: yesterday, Daniel Fontaine outlined reasons one through five. Click here to read part one.
4: PIPELINE POLITICS MAY PROVE PRICKLY
The NDP have taken a strong position fighting against the TransCanada Pipeline. While that has worked politically so far, we’ve already witnessed how something as simple as hike in gas prices or a change of leadership in Alberta can suddenly turn this all around.
A spring election would have allowed Horgan to campaign against the pipeline and for the environment, while at the same time defending BC’s interests against an Alberta Premier who appears all too eager to pick a fight.
It would have been a battle between Horgan and Kenney, as opposed to Horgan and Wilkinson. A battle with Kenney would have been a much easier campaign to fight – especially before shovels are in the ground.
If, as expected, the pipeline is approved next month and construction begins, by 2021 Horgan will have lost a lot of political leverage with environmentalists. We shouldn’t forget they are already reeling from his decision to approve both the Site C Dam and a major expansion of LNG.
3: BURGEONING BROMANCE WITH BC BUSINESS COMMUNITY HAS ITS LIMITATIONS
In the ‘90s, the previous iteration of the NDP government faced some serious headwinds in the form of opposition from BC’s business community. High profile and well-spoken figures regularly appeared in the media to attack the NDP. They included Phil Hochstein from the Independent Contractors and Builders Association [ICBA] as well as John Winter from the BC Chamber of Commerce – both of whom have since retired.
Today, with the noted exception of the ICBA, the business community and its member organizations appear much more willing to play ball. Rather than openly criticize them, they are more interested in breaking bread and hoping good logic and a business case will trump political ideology.
Once again, it will only take one issue to disrupt this emerging “bromance” with the business community. With two years left in the mandate, odds are high that something major will pop up, and business leaders will revert back to supporting political parties committed to championing free enterprise.
2: PUBLIC INQUIRY INTO MONEY LAUNDERING WILL SUCK OXYGEN OUT OF THE ROOM
By all accounts, Attorney General David Eby appears to have a real interest in maximizing political damage to the BC Liberals as it relates to the issue of money laundering. A number of political pundits have speculated it’s one of the main drivers behind the decision to call a public inquiry. No doubt the NDP hope if the inquiry is as bad as some think it will be, it will relegate the BC Liberals to the opposition benches for at least another decade. I believe this strategy is risky for a number of reasons.
Leading into the 2021 election, the NDP will want to focus on what they have done as government. Expect to hear about increased childcare spaces, protecting the environment, and making life more affordable for the average British Columbian.
A public inquiry puts all that at risk. The headlines could skew toward salacious details about buying fast cars and expensive homes with bags of cash. Have you been watching the news and listening to talk radio lately? Or did you live in Quebec during the Charbonneau Commission?
While the NDP may think otherwise, there is no guarantee the BC Liberals, or at least the new group of candidates they put forward in 2021, will have to own this issue. There is just as good a likelihood the inquiry could point fingers at the federal government for the entire mess. Let’s not forget the inquiry could also go well over budget with a final report not ready within the two-year mandate.
Over the next two years, the NDP will have lost out on a great opportunity to get out positive messages they will need to lock in those important middle-of-the-road voters.
1: GREEN RIPPLE ABOUT TO BECOME GREEN WAVE
If you haven’t already noticed, our country has been going through a bit of love-in with the Green Party. When the media aren’t gushing over Green Party Leader Elizabeth May’s wedding plans, they are reporting that climate change is becoming a top issue of concern for Canadians.
Earlier this month May had another reason to celebrate when Green Party candidate John Manly took the seat away from the NDP and became the second member of the federal caucus.
Last month PEI voters broke with tradition and elected the Greens to official opposition status. In Ontario the Greens elected their first Member of the Provincial Parliament. Last fall, every single Green candidate running for council in Vancouver made it past the finish line.
British Columbians were early adopters, having elected three Green MLAs in 2017. When the BC Liberals won the greatest number of seats, but not a majority, this opened a window for the Greens to strike a deal with the NDP. For the first time in Canadian history, Greens were effectively choosing the provincial government.
Every day the NDP continue their strategic partnership with the Greens, they provide them with the very political currency they will need to win a greater number of seats in 2021. In a tight election, this will mean many NDP MLAs will either lose their seats to the BC Liberals – or as we just saw in the federal by-election in Nanaimo, progressives will coalesce around a Green candidate.
The other wild card is the closer we get to the 2021 election, BC Green Leader Andrew Weaver will feel more pressure to distance himself from the NDP. Expect Weaver, his Green MLAs, and candidates to ramp up the rhetoric and become much harsher critics of this administration.
In closing, there are many reasons government want to cling to power as long as the can. As they say, one day in government is better than four years in opposition.
However, in politics you also have to read the tea leaves. If the NDP eke out a majority in 2021, it would be an amazing accomplishment for a party with a track record of one-term governments.
For his part, Horgan would be a hero and would have firmly established himself as one of the smartest and craftiest politicians of our time.
If the NDP lose, there will be a lot of armchair quarterbacks who will say that spring election might have produced a dramatically different outcome.
Daniel Fontaine is the Chief Executive Officer for a non-profit seniors care organization based in Burnaby. A former weekly civic affairs columnist for 24 Hours Newspaper, Fontaine has been a political commentator on Global TV and CKNW radio. In 2008 he co-founded one of Canada’s most popular civic affairs blogs. In 2012, Fontaine was awarded the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal for public service.