After more than a decade of fairly good relations, things are likely to get ugly between the federal and the B.C. governments.
With the prospect of Adrian Dix taking over the reins of government looking more likely, the stage is being set for a clash of ideologies on many issues.
Chief among them is environmental protection, specifically, the proposed Enbridge pipeline. While the federal government's weakening of the environmental process is a cause for concern for New Democrats, it is the pipeline that really drives them up the wall.
Last week, the NDP caucus wrote an 11-page letter to the joint review panel for the project, articulating its opposition to the pipeline.
This wasn't just a throwaway position that could conceivably be changed later. This was a detailed, point-by-point rejection of arguably the number one industrial priority of the Harper government.
The importance the federal government is placing on the Enbridge pipeline cannot be overstated. It considers the pipeline as a cornerstone of the country's economic strategy for years to come.
Further evidence of the Tories' attachment to the pipeline project is its strange determination to paint the environmental movement as some sort of deranged cult financed by mysterious international sources.
This kind of demonization is going to be laughed at in B.C., where the importance of environmental protection cuts a wide swath across all party lines. Environmental protection is a value ingrained in many British Columbians, and it's not surprising that opinion polls show there is more opposition to the Enbridge pipeline than support.
A big chunk of NDP supporters also hold strong environmental values and will be particularly offended by the Harper government's tactics. The federal government seems to be drawing a line in the sand on this issue, making it clear that Alberta's interests trump those of British Columbia.
Placed against this backdrop, it's hard to see any chance of even a remotely warm relationship between Dix and Harper. Add to it the Tories' insistence on a crackdown on crime that will add cost pressures to the provinces and other ideologically based policies, and we have the perfect recipe for serious tensions emerging between Victoria and Ottawa.
As many predicted, now that the Tories have a majority government its right-wing ideology is shaping more and more of its policies.
This also creates a problem, but as well perhaps an opportunity for Premier Christy Clark. As Dix and the NDP inevitably find themselves criticizing the federal government on various issues, it will be interesting to see where Clark comes down on those same issues.
Clark needs to find an issue or two that resonate with the public if she has any chance of winning reelection. As the Harper government becomes unpopular in this province, will she distance herself from that government in a clearly defined way? Or will she cling to her failing attempts at appearing to be more conservative than she really is, to beat down support for the B.C. Conservative party?
Dix has already staked out his position when it comes to the Harper government, and it's likely one that will shore up his party's popularity in this province. Will Clark try to share that turf?
If she does, it will mean the cordial relationship that has existed between the B.C. government and the one in Ottawa for more than a decade will be over. And if Dix does indeed become premier, that relationship will be icy at best and downright ugly at worst.
Keith Baldrey is chief political reporter for Global BC.
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