What the NDP and Green parties could have in store for BC

By: Sarvin Samei

On May 29, NDP leader John Horgan and Green Party leader Andrew Weaver shocked the province by announcing a joint partnership and signing an agreement in order to solidify a minority government. That’s a big slap in Christy Clark’s face. With much uncertainty with BC’s political agenda, this new partnership will be interesting, to say the least.

Just to clear the air, this agreement is not a coalition . . . Yes, I’m just as confused as you are. In a recent statement, Horgan said that forming a coalition government was never a part of the plan. There are no set plans for anyone in Weaver’s caucus to join the NDP cabinet.

“We now have, with our 41 members and the three Green members, the majority support in the legislature,” Horgan explained. The Greens will support the NDP’s legislative agenda with financial decisions, and in return, the NDP will take on the Green’s environmental concerns and address them for policy-making.

I’m critical when I hear the government proposing new policies and financial goals, because again I ask the question — how? Ultimately, this NDP-Green alliance is a clever strategy to push for financial and environmental issues, given that the legislature is now 44 to 43 and will impose a challenge for the BC Liberals. So, what do the policy initiatives these parties are pushing for ultimately mean for BC?

Increasing Minimum Wage

BC has the highest cost of living in all of Canada, with one of the lowest minimum wages.The Green Party supports the NDP decision to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour. This bold, risky move will likely place an additional financial burden on businesses, who will eventually have to increase the salaries of existing employees.

Affordable Housing

BC has struggled with affordable housing for a long time now. BC’s cost of living is ridiculously expensive, especially in the Greater Vancouver region expensive enough that I see myself eventually living in a one-bedroom apartment with six roommates.

The NDP proposed installing 11,400 new sites of affordable housing each year over the course of ten years. The Green Party pledged $750 million for subsidized affordable housing that’s ambitious. The Greens also proposed a 30% foreign buyers tax, which the NDP are against.

Yet I cringe at the discussion of affordable housing, because of the main concern: who is going to pay for this? This part is still unclear. How is the Green Party going to find the money for subsidizing housing? This would most likely result in raising taxes, but which taxes? Property taxes? Incomes taxes? Transit taxes? How are they going to find the funds to support this goal?

It’s hard to predict whether the NDP/Green party will be successful . . . Neither party has announced exactly how they will achieve affordable housing. I’m eager to hear the logistics behind this financial decision.

Health Care

Canadians are fortunate to have universal healthcare, but ironically, BC’s health care system still sucks. With the recent drug crisis, 374 fentanyl-related deaths claimed the lives of British Columbians between January and October 2016.

Both the NDP and the Green Party support creating drug programs to tackle mental health and addiction issues, reducing the costs of prescriptions drugs, and wait for it  eliminating health-care premiums within four years.

Let’s be honest, the chances of eliminating health-care premiums for everyone are very slim, but I do see it being a possibility for lower-income families. It is a relief to see the NDP and Green Party both taking a concerned interest in the fentanyl crisis by proposing more accessible drug programs such as treatment on-demand and coordinated response to overdose.

To overcome the crisis, the NDP and Green party will have to prioritize investing in these drug programs. If the government continues to fail after exerting all its resources, then they may have to look at other solutions such as redoubling efforts to cut off the drug supplies and decriminalizing drugs.