British Columbia·Analysis

Horgan, Weaver hope to tread historic path in minority government

It may have been the most pivotal rugby match in B.C. political history.

The leaders want to fundamentally alter the way politics in B.C. is done. Here's how they might do it

B.C. Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver and B.C. NDP Leader John Horgan speak to media after announcing they'll be working together to help form a minority government during a press conference at the B.C. Legislature in Victoria, on May 29, 2017. (Chad Hipolito/The Canadian Press)

It may have been the most pivotal rugby match in B.C. political history. At least off the pitch. 

Late Sunday afternoon in Langford, the local MLA and a fellow Vancouver Island MLA saw each other in the stands and decided to sit together during the final of a women's rugby tournament. 

"I'm a rugby guy,'' said Andrew Weaver, when asked why he was sitting with John Horgan, a fellow former rugby player. "I'm hanging out with my rugby guys here.''

He left midway through the match for one final negotiating session with the B.C. Liberals. Later that evening, Weaver's party agreed to support Horgan's party in the legislature, potentially setting in motion a chain of events that would result in an NDP government. 

B.C. Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver and B.C. NDP Leader John Horgan take in the final match between Team Canada and New Zealand at the HSBC Canada Women's Sevens rugby match on Sunday. (Chap Hipolito/The Canadian Press)

"The rugby summit is a myth," said Horgan to reporters, when asked of the significance of the encounter.

Perhaps. But on Monday, after years of frosty exchanges, Weaver and Horgan were full of smiles as they outlined how they could change politics.

"To be blunt, I think John and I saw a different side of each other in negotiations," said Weaver.

"This is an adversarial place by its nature, and both of us want to change that, and we have an opportunity now to do that," added Horgan. 

So how would that happen?

Making the legislature work

Speculation about how a NDP-Green agreement would work at this stage comes with two big caveats. 

One, Christy Clark is still the premier and has a range of possibilities at her disposal that would extend her reign.

Two, the NDP and Green Party won't reveal the details of their pact until it's approved by the NDP caucus. 

But UBC political scientist Max Cameron believes their agreement could pave the way for more cooperation in the B.C. Legislature. 

"I actually think that potentially it's very positive for our democracy, because what this does it is it creates a precedent of parties working together," he said.

The agreement between the two parties is what they term a "Confidence and Supply Agreement," meaning the Greens will guarantee support for any budgets or confidence motions, but all other bills could be up for debate, as Horgan himself acknowledged on Monday.

"That's not to say that every bill that's brought forward by New Democrats will pass, and that's not to say that bills brought forward by Liberals or Greens cannot get majority support of the legislature."

Surprises, Kinder and otherwise

It's presumed the agreement contains guarantees to eliminate corporate and union donations from B.C.'s political system, along with some sort of agreement to bring electoral reform closer to reality. 

And, it's likely that strong opposition to the $7.4 billion Trans Mountain pipeline expansion by Kinder Morgan will be a key part of the agreement, given that Weaver said "this issue of Kinder Morgan is one that was critical to us, and I think you'll see that reflected in tomorrow's announcement."

Beyond that though, there's plenty of questions: will all 44 NDP and Green MLAs support each other on more contentious issues, including electoral reform? Will the Site C dam, currently under construction, be completely scrapped (as the Greens would like) or sent to review (as the NDP would like)? What exactly would political funding look like with no corporate or union donations? 

Beyond that, there's the longer issue of whether the four-year deal agreed to by both parties would actually last through the Sturm und Drang of 48 months of politics. 

But for now, the man occasionally saddled with the nickname "Hulk Horgan" can see a scenario where he has a new title: Premier of British Columbia.

"My wife said that I was smiling a little bit excessively today. She was worried that I was going to go off the road because my eyes were too shut because my smile was too big," said Horgan — while acknowledging his own fraught path ahead.

"There's lots of work to do, and we're not done yet."

The NDP and the Greens are expected to reveal the agreement, if signed off by the NDP caucus, by 2 p.m. PT Tuesday.