COLUMN: Priorities in a divided province following 2019 election

Federal election results provide more proof that B.C. is a very divided province politically.

The Liberals won 11 B.C. seats on election night, down from a high of 18 seats in 2018 (after a byelection win). The Conservatives jumped from 10 MPs elected in 2015 to 17. The NDP lost ground, going from 14 seats to 11. The Greens stayed at two, and there is now an independent MP from B.C., Jody Wilson-Raybould, the former Liberal justice minister.

Where the parties hold seats varies dramatically. The Liberals are an urban party, with every seat in the Metro Vancouver area. The Conservatives are a rural and suburban party. The NDP has five seats on Vancouver Island in mostly suburban and rural ridings, with the exception of Victoria. They hold two seats in the Interior, two in Vancouver and two in the Metro Vancouver suburbs. One of those is held by party leader Jagmeet Singh. The Greens hold two Vancouver Island seats. Saanich–Gulf Islands is held by party leader Elizabeth May.

What will this very split representation bring to B.C., under a Liberal minority government?

READ MORE: B.C. shone bright for major parties in 2019 federal election

The NDP theoretically holds the balance of power, but the prime minister has already made it clear he plans to govern without support from any other party. This follows the playbook of his predecessor Stephen Harper, who headed two minority governments from 2006-2011.

The NDP will hold some sway, but the party will not be able to stop the Trans Mountain pipeline project. Both Justin Trudeau and Finance Minister Bill Morneau have made it clear the project will proceed. The Liberals do want to move forward on climate change initiatives, although the party has not been very clear on what steps it will take to meet Paris Accord targets, other than impose a modest carbon tax in provinces that did not have one.

The NDP may have more clout with housing affordability. The Liberals had introduced a National Housing Strategy, but the New Democrats want to dramatically increase the supply of housing. One idea proposed was to get 500,000 housing units under construction, as compared with the Liberal platform calling for 100,000 over 10 years. Lack of supply is a key reason for both higher sale prices and higher rents.

The provincial government on Thursday (Oct. 23) brought in a bill to adopt the United Nations declaration on the rights of Indigenous people, and gradually apply it to B.C. statutes. This proposal has been on the federal to-do list since the 2015 election, but has yet to be completed. It is quite likely that the federal government will move ahead on this front in the near future. One supporter of any move in that direction will be Wilson-Raybould, a former regional chief of the BC Assembly of First Nations.

Infrastructure spending on transportation is important to many. In Metro Vancouver, much of the focus has been on additional funding to expand SkyTrain and improve the bus system.

Outside Metro Vancouver, there have been many calls for highway improvements, particularly to Highway 1 in the Fraser Valley and from Kamloops to the Alberta border. Some projects are underway, but much remains to be done to significantly improve the major artery between B.C. and the rest of the country. B.C. residents will be watching Ottawa closely to see what transportation priorities it brings forward, and when.

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Frank Bucholtz is a columnist and former editor at Black Press Media

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