Area MLAs ready to serve as opposition

Three Prince George area Liberal MLAs appeared resigned Tuesday to sitting on the opposition side of the provincial legislature as B.C. Premier Christy Clark said she will "test the confidence of the house" by the end of June.

Only to the extent that a "week can be a long time in politics" does Nechako Lakes MLA John Rustad hold out any hope the B.C. Liberals will come out on top.

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"It's pretty obvious that if the Greens and the NDP are two peas in the same pod and they've got a deal," Rustad said.

"It's a pretty much foregone conclusion, but you have to still play it out."

Clark's test will come in the form of a vote on a throne speech that Prince George-Valemount MLA Shirley Bond indicated will also be a step towards repairing the damage done to the B.C. Liberal brand as shown by the loss of seats in the election.

"We're going to continue to stick to the principles that matter, to our vision for the future, but we're also going to reflect on the fact that British Columbians sent us a message," Bond said. "They said they want some things done differently."

However, she also said the speech will lay out a platform in "stark contrast" to what has been presented in the agreement between the New Democrats and Greens, unveiled Tuesday afternoon.

Of note to Bond was the NDP-Green's vow to stop the twinning of the Kinder Morgan pipeline.

Although unpopular in the Lower Mainland, Bond noted it passes through her riding and suggested voters in Valemount be asked for their opinions on the project.

"Some parts of British Columbia, including my riding of Prince George-Valemount probably have a different view, particularly the people of Valemount, about the Kinder Morgan pipeline," Bond said.

Prince George-Mackenzie MLA Mike Morris called the deal between the NDP and the Greens "expensive," and predicted a dire period for this region as a consequence.

"It will basically shut down rural B.C. and there will be a lot of people looking for work, if they can find it," Morris said.

"They're talking about shutting Site C down, they're talking about no Kinder Morgan, they're talking about increasing the carbon tax on slash burning within forestry and on the venting within the oil and gas industries.

"That's going to add a whole bunch of money to the cost of producing natural resources in the province and it may curtail a lot of activities out there."

Rustad dismissed the NDP-Green's promise to have the Site C project put to a review by the B.C. Utilities Commission as going over old territory. Work on the project will continue during the review.

"BCUC doesn't have the skills or the depth to do a review, so they're going to be hiring all the same type of people that we hired to do the review," Rustad said.

He said Site C is the "best option for clean stable power for generations to come."

The NDP and Greens will replace the Liberals' revenue-neutral carbon tax plan with rebate cheques to "ensure a majority of British Columbians are better off financially than under the current carbon tax formula" while also implementing a strategy to meet its climate action targets.

Rustad said the strategy will translate into more money for transit and other projects in the Lower Mainland.

"And for us, up in the north, who depend on trucking, on vehicles to get around, for our industry, it's obviously going to be hurtful," Rustad said.

As for the NDP-Greens plan hold a referendum on some form of proportional representation during the 2018 municipal elections, both Rustad and Bond said northern B.C. will stand to lose in terms of representation in the Legislature if a switch to proportional representation is made.

Rustad said he hopes the referendum includes an "appropriate level of checks and balances that has to meet a certain threshold in terms of the overall vote and as well as a certain threshold in terms of the number of ridings that support it."

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