Unpacking the BC election for your business

Posted by: Kaitlyn Mason on May 15, 2017

The provincial election in British Columbia on May 9, 2017 saw the incumbent BC Liberal Party winning the most seats, and invited to form the next government.

That said, the final seat count is still uncertain. There remains a possibility of the Liberals forming a majority, and while less likely, the possibility exists that the New Democratic Party (NDP) could as well.

There will be three recounts, including in the riding of Courtenay-Comox, where only 9 votes separated the declared winner from the NDP and the Liberal candidate. In addition, there are roughly 170,000 absentee ballots which won’t be counted until May 22-24, 2017.

But as of today, the Liberals won 43 of a possible 87 seats, one seat shy of forming a majority government.

The New Democratic Party won 41 seats, with the Greens winning the remaining 3. While the Liberals have been asked to form the government as the incumbents and the party with the most seats, an NDP and Green Party coalition would have 44 seats to the Liberals’ 43.

There also needs to be a Speaker elected, who only votes when there is a tie.

What does this all mean for businesses in Calgary?

Regardless of the final seat count, there remains a level of uncertainty over the future of resource development and transportation in British Columbia—policy issues that significantly impact business in Calgary.

The biggest election issue for businesses in Alberta was market access.

As one of only two landlocked provinces, Alberta is dependent on neighbouring BC to access emerging Pacific markets. Kinder Morgan’s pipeline expansion has been projected to increase Alberta’s government revenue by $19.4 billion over twenty years, and is expected to create close to 28,000 construction and pipeline operations jobs, along with over 400,000 jobs from additional investments in oil and gas development.

If the Liberals stay as a minority government, they will need support from across the aisle to pass legislation. The Green Party has emerged as the power broker, with both sides needing their votes. This is a cause for concern for Alberta’s energy sector, as the Greens have opposed pipeline expansions.

That said, while the Green Party called for a moratorium on tankers carrying diluted bitumen on the BC coast, supporting the Federal Liberal’s Tanker Moratorium, Green leader Andrew Weaver has said that he would consider supporting moving refined product along the coast.

The Liberals are the only BC party to support Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain project. In fact, John Horgan, leader of the NDP, has said that he would use “every tool in the toolbox” to stop the project.

While the approval for Kinder Morgan’s pipeline project falls under federal jurisdiction, the provincial government can pose serious challenges to the pipeline’s development through provincial environmental assessment processes and other local permitting regulations. This can be a real cause for concern if the NDP and Greens can form a coalition.

The Liberals are forming their fifth straight government since 2001, and after coming so close to winning this time, the NDP will continue to reinforcing their “its time for a change message” through out this mandate. A message that was been successful in Alberta and Federally in 2015. As such, we should expect the NDP to take every chance to deny the Liberals success, offer alternative solutions on every issue and work to show they are ready to govern at the next opportunity.

Where does this leave Albertans?

The great unknown going forward is the impact of the three Green Party MLAs should they have the balance of power in the legislature. What this will mean to the government’s agenda when it comes to resources development and environmental protection is uncertain.

Should the Greens and NDP have enough power to stall pipeline expansions, much needed economic activity in Alberta may be stifled.

At the moment, Albertans must wait as the final votes are counted. Stay tuned, we will keep you up to date on developments as they unfold.