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Stability in unstable times?

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On Friday, Aug. 25 at 10 a.m., Premier John Horgan held a press conference announcing that his NDP government would do away with tolls on the Port Mann and Golden Ears bridges in Vancouver.

The move would "make life more affordable" Horgan said, saving families who regularly have to cross the Fraser River an average $1,500 a year (and commercial drivers averaging one crossing a day $4,500 a year or more).

At 10:14 a.m., Andrew Weaver of the Green Party — which in late May announced it would work with the NDP to defeat Christy Clark and the BC Liberals — issued a press release denouncing the move.

"There is no question that the affordability crisis facing so many British Columbians is a significant concern. However, this policy is high cost and low impact," Weaver said in the release.

"There are lots of good, high return-on-investment decisions that government can make, such as education, student housing and child care. It is disappointing that the first major measure that this government has taken to make life more affordable for British Columbians will add billions of dollars to taxpayer-supported debt."

It's not the first time Weaver's Greens have opposed Horgan and the NDP in their short time as government collaborators — Weaver has also criticized the government's recent "ban" on trophy hunting grizzlies, calling it a "political stunt," and publicly opposed the NDP's plan to remove the use of secret ballots for employees seeking to form unions.

Is there trouble in paradise?

Not quite, says David Moscrop, post-doctoral fellow at Simon Fraser University.

According to Moscrop, so far the arrangement is working just as it was expected to, with the Greens supporting and cooperating with the NDP where they agree, and opposing where they don't.

"The test will be whether the Greens support critical NDP legislation (e.g. the budget) and perhaps a few other bills here and there. The twist in a minority parliament is that the government may not always get what it wants in the way it wants it. That's normal. Some folks think that's better for democracy," says Moscrop.

"All in all, the system is working well for now. It's producing outcomes we'd expect. The tests will be whether the NDP can get anything significant done and whether they can remain in government for a few years. I'd say early indications are that they can achieve both, but both will require they keep the Greens mostly satisfied."

The occasional disagreement aside, odds are that British Columbia's new political arrangement will remain stable for the foreseeable future at least — good news for voters, businesses and municipalities alike.

In the case of the latter, many are still awaiting their first opportunity to meet with the government and its newly appointed cabinet ministers (many of which, like tourism minister Lisa Beare, are still getting accustomed to their new files).

They'll get their first good chance at the annual Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) conference this Sept. 25 to 29 in Vancouver.

Both the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (SLRD) and Village of Pemberton (VOP) have, in recent weeks, made an indication of what their priorities will be at UBCM.

For the SLRD, the focus will be on illegal dumping, funding for First Nations reconciliation, a passenger rail service between North Vancouver and northern communities and enhancing tourism and regional road infrastructure (the VOP has also said it will lobby for rail service and better bike and tourism infrastructure).

But how much can you expect to get from a new government still finding its footing?

"We try to ensure that our asks of government are supported by evidence and are reasonable, even though some may be ambitious," SLRD chair Jack Crompton told Pique earlier this month.

This UBCM will be no different, he added, but there will no doubt be a feeling-out process with the new ministers in which both parties try to understand where the other is coming from (and how best to advocate for the needs of constituents).

"The SLRD has diverse needs but they really don't change year to year," Crompton said.

"We will continue to advocate for the importance of roads to our rural economies, we will continue to advocate for investments in tourism and agriculture and we will continue to advocate for the needs of our residents."

Closer to home, the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) has yet to finalize its UBCM appointments, but in a recent email a communications official said the RMOW would "be looking to meet provincial elected officials and staff regarding a number of topics ranging from (Resort Municipality Initiative) funding and FireSmart to highways and daycare."

Only time will tell what outcomes are achieved with our new provincial government, and there will certainly be some interesting times ahead on the political landscape — but for now, at least, it seems to be business as usual.

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