Representatives of a diverse range of social groups from across B.C. came together on Tuesday to challenge the provincial NDP and Green parties to find a road to cooperation.
The rally took place on the steps of the Legislative Building to tell the two parties that the 60 per cent of British Columbians who voted for either the NDP or the Green parties did so with the expectation of real change. That change, they argue, will only come about if the NDP and Green parties cooperate in achieving a progressive social agenda in provincial government.
When the votes were counted on election night, the governing Liberals had won 43 seats, the NDP 41, and the Green party three of the province’s 87 ridings. Following the tabulation of the absentee ballots and a recounts in both Courtenay-Comox riding (initially won by NDP Ronna Rae Leonard by nine votes) and Vancouver-False Creek (won by the Liberals), those totals remained unchanged.
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President, Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, urged the crowd of roughly 250 people to stand tall and speak out to defend the well-being of future generations.
“This is a unique and historic moment to change the course of history (in B.C.),” he said.
He called upon the two parties to form a coalition government to affect the genuine change he believes is wanted by the majority of the province. He also advocated for a change toward proportional representation to replace the current first-past-the-post system.
It was a message echoed by Sven Biggs, Climate and Energy Campaigner for Stand.earth. He said the people of B.C. had clearly voted for change and called for the NDP and Greens to come together and put aside partisanship and past issues with one another to oppose initiatives like the Kinder Morgan pipeline and increased tanker traffic in the waters of B.C.’s coast.
Other groups representing a broad range of social issues also spoke at the rally, including the B.C. Health Coalition who called for a change in the approach to health care in the province, and Force of Nature, who spoke on the issue of taking real action on climate change.
The greatest crowd reaction was engendered by Terry Dance-Bennick of the Rolling Justice Bus (Site C group) who spoke passionately about the need to halt the development of the Site C dam.
“Christy Clark has sworn to get this $9 billion white elephant beyond the point of no return. I’m here to say, there’s a U-turn straight ahead, and it’s due to 60 per cent of voters of B.C.,” said Dance-Bennick to raucous cheers and applause from the demonstrators at the event.
Organizers presented Sonia Furstenau, Green MLA for Cowichan Valley, and Carole James, NDP MLA for Victoria-Beacon Hill with a petition signed by more than 25,000 British Columbians, calling on the Greens and NDP to work together to “defend our environment and strengthen our democracy”.
Neither James nor Furstenau would comment on the call for a coalition between the two parties, but both acknowledged that talks between all the provincial parties are on going.