The past few weeks have been a humbling experience.
During the election I promised to be part of changing the discourse in British Columbia politics. I imagined to work to achieve this over the course of a four year-term as an MLA. But the final results returned a two-seat difference between the BC NDP and the BC Liberals with the BC Greens three seats holding the balance.
British Columbians are used to majority governments, one party supported by less than half of the voters, holding 100% of the power. For decades politics in our Province has been a power “game.”
This “game” has not benefited citizens, it has only advanced partisan interests. As a result our political dialogue and the behaviour of our politicians has become polarized.
Throughout the election, I heard from people that they believed we needed a change in government. I heard that they had grown weary of the BC Liberals and that they are suspicious of the BC NDP. In Saanich North and the Islands the results reflected a strong desire for change.
In the weeks following the election, my BC Green colleagues and I were handed a difficult scenario. The balance of power.
Do we prop up the unpopular Liberal government and risk the Liberals calling another election very soon so they could solidify their grip on power. Or do we prop up an untested NDP government on confidence and budget votes? No matter who we chose to prop up, the “other side” was going to be bitterly disappointed.
After weeks of negotiations and careful consideration we decided to give the NDP our support on confidence and budget votes. Our agreement allowed us to remain an independent third voice in the Legislature as an opposition Party.
Let me be clear. We have not sold out our values. We are not a coalition, nor are we the “GreeNDP”. I am the MLA of Saanich North and the Islands and the most important decision I have made, happened while I was still technically your MLA-elect.
During the campaign I offered a hopeful vision for the future of British Columbia founded on a commitment to intergenerational equity. I promised you that I would, Be an insurance policy, holding both the NDP and Liberals accountable, Establish a responsive and pro-active Constituency Office solving local issues and advancing the interests of our communities, and Seek and offer pragmatic public policy solutions to the challenges and opportunities facing British Columbians.
The agreement we signed, to support confidence and budget votes of an NDP minority government, allows me to honour these commitments. I will be a community-focused MLA who has your interests and the interests of our riding at the centre of my decision-making. I will honour my agreement with the NDP but they have to earn my support on all other initiatives, just as they earned our support by making a commitment to advancing certain policy proposals the BC Greens campaigned on.
We could not change government by supporting the Liberals, it would have been more of the same. They would continue down the same path on health care, education, transportation, affordability and housing. Liberal, NDP, Green and Independent voters in Saanich North and the Islands told me that was unacceptable.
The BC Liberals have been in power for 16 years, they became out of touch with British Columbians and during the election so many people told me it was time to reset. Four Cabinet Ministers were defeated.
It has been more than six decades since our last minority government. I understand the uncertainty the minority government situation has caused. But nobody is more uncomfortable than the 87 MLA’s elected in May 9th and that is to the benefit of all British Columbians.
Over the past few weeks I have been asked repeatedly about holding the “balance of power.” I choose to regard it as the balance of responsibility. All 87 MLA’s share the responsibility to govern the province for next four years. Every MLA must act responsibly to make it work for the whole term.
We must work together, breaking down the polarization which has eroded democratic debate and good public policy making. Indeed, we are entering a new era of BC politics where collaboration and transparency across political lines are needed for the system to work. It’s an exciting time for our province and I am committed to work with all 87 MLAs in the Legislature as we move forward.
Adam Olsen, MLA for Saanich North & the Islands