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British Columbia Facing Constitutional Crisis

It’s anyone’s bet who will be British Columbia’s next Premier

British Columbia Candidates
BC NDP Leader John Horgan (L), BC Liberal Leader Christy Clark (C) and BC Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver (R). (Lasia Kretzel, NEWS 1130 Photo)

A month has passed since British Columbia’s general election was held and it’s still unclear who will serve as the next Premier of Canada’s Pacific province.

Liberals, who led majority governments for the past 16 years, came one seat short of forming a majority government in the last election. Led by Premier Christy Clark, the Liberal party won 43 seats, compared to 41 for the NDP and 3 for the Greens. To make matters more interesting, and arguably nerve wracking, the NDP defeated the Liberals in Courtenay-Comox riding by a mere nine votes (final vote count increased that share to 189 votes) – the closest election result in the history of the province.

The Green Party held talks with the Liberals and the NDP. But not surprisingly, they decided to form a four-year agreement to support an NDP government with the joint goal of ending the First-Past-the-Post electoral system, eliminating the role of money in politics and stopping the expansion of the controversial Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline which was recently approved by Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government.

With the support of 44 Members of the Legislative Assembly, the NDP leader John Horgan has the necessary support to become the 36th premier of British Columbia. Correct?

Not so fast!

Liberals Looking to Deny the NDP-Green Alliance from Taking Hold

Premier Clark vowed not to resign and unveiled her new cabinet on Monday. She will have a first chance to seek the confidence of the Legislative Assembly. A motion of no confidence is expected to pass following the Throne Speech, defeating the Liberal government and forcing Clark to resign. University of Toronto political science professor Grace Skogstad tells the Progressive Army that she believes that the Premier will ask the Lieutenant Governor, Judith Guichon, to dissolve the legislature and call for a new election.

The roles of the Lieutenant Governor (provincial) and Governor General (federal) are largely seen as ceremonial roles. It’s generally expected that the Governor would honor the requests of the Premier or the Prime Minister on almost every occasion. In 2008, the federal Liberals, NDP, and the Bloc Québécois formed an accord to defeat Stephen Harper’s Conservative minority government. Harper, facing a non-confidence vote, asked the Governor General, Michaëlle Jean, to prorogue the government instead – a request the Governor General granted.

British Columbia Lieutenant Governor Judith Guichon. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

However, the Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia can deny Premier Clark’s request for dissolution, explains Skogstad. She points to the constitutional crisis of 1926, called the King-Byng affair, where Governor General Lord Byng of Vimy declined the request of Prime Minister William King to dissolve the parliament as he was facing a non-confidence vote. Byng requested that the Conservative party should be given the opportunity to form a government.

University of Calgary political science professor Barry Cooper agrees and points to the 1985 Ontario election. The Conservative government failed to secure a majority government, and the Liberal party and the NDP reached an agreement to support the Liberal government for two years. The Conservative Premier, Frank Miller, refused to resign and carried on. The Liberals and the NDP voted against the Throne Speech and Premier Miller went to the Lieutenant Governor to tender his letter of resignation. Lieutenant Governor John Black Aird didn’t dissolve the legislature but asked the Liberal leader Peterson to form a government.

The Special Role of the Speaker Complicates Matters

The constitutional crisis in British Columbia is much more precarious because the NDP-Greens alliance has only one more vote than the Liberals. While the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly is a prestigious role, it’s important to note that the “Speaker is neutral, responsible for making sure that all MLAs, no matter what party they belong to, are treated fairly and impartially. He or she votes only to break a tie.”

The Liberals confirmed that none of their members are interested in taking on the role of the Speaker. The NDP (or the Green Party) will be forced to nominate one of their own, or the Lieutenant Governor will have no choice but to dissolve the legislature in the absence of a Speaker. This means that there will be a 43-43 tie before the confidence vote, and the NDP Speaker would have to break the tie by voting against the Throne Speech in order to defeat the government.

“The conventions regarding how the speaker voters in the event of a tie vote were established in the British Parliament 150 years ago,” University of the Fraser Valley political science professor Hamish Telford tells the Progressive Army. He notes that this would mark the first time in the history of the Commonwealth – national or regional – where the tie-breaking vote of a Speaker defeated a government.

“It would be a precedent setting case in the Commonwealth,” Telford states.

Telford also highlights that tie votes are exceedingly rare, happening only twice in the last 100 years. But with a 43-43 tie, votes by the Speaker to break ties will be a common occurrence. For those reasons, Lieutenant Governor Judith Guichon will be put in a very difficult position. “She may decide to enforce the convention herself by not asking the NDP to form a government,” Telford speculates.

“The NDP-Green alliance may want to go for an election as soon as possible,” University of Ryerson political science professor Colin Mooers argues. “On the other hand, as is evident in the UK right now, it might be to their advantage to give the Liberals more rope and avoid a backlash from fatigues voters by leaving the Liberals in power a bit longer.”

In short, no one knows what will happen next.

Written by Salam Morcos

Salam Morcos is a Managing Editor of Progressive Army and a member of its Editorial Board.

Political activist for democracy, social justice, racial justice, women's right and human rights.

5 Comments

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  1. In the name of the Almighty Father, and the Son!

    British Columbians are all misleaded by the Evil mask wearing on the face of NDP&Green!

    People who with a pair of bright eyes will be seeing the Truth when the time has elscaped!

    Please see attached pictures of the ceremony BC Legit.

    Surrounding NDP are all pretty women!

    Surrounding Liberal are all men & women come from all regions with different cultures background truly representing people in BC!

    In deed,
    Canada other provincial NDP leaders who has totally lost confidence on BC NDP leader Mr.Horgan!

    The Evil!
    NDP&Green would have thrown +30k K.Morgan&SiteC workers onto street&killed $4.9billion BC Tax Revenue in only 1year! K.Morgan&SiteC workers are our brothers &Sisters whose family need them to work! They need jobs! Those tax Revenue could help thousands and thousands people who in need! Liberal supporters are fighting for the Evil with our Faith! We’re doing everything possible to stop that cold blood animal harming our brothers&Sisters! Please score down this webpage to view those Facebook links to give your warm supports!

    Quote begin”

    Campaigning was one thing, but now BC NDP, Greens enter tricky territory

    GARY MASON

    JUNE 9, 2017

    After 16 years out of office, British Columbia’s NDP MLAs were all smiles when their party assumed power in 1991. But they quickly realized what happens when broad expectation meets the harsh realities of day-to-day governing. Some might say it was all downhill from there.

    While that wouldn’t be quite fair, it is true to say that running a province looks a lot easier when sitting on the opposition benches. The task becomes even more complicated and difficult when your survival depends on appeasing the desires of a three-seat party that is propping you up.

    Alberta NDP Premier Rachel Notley isn’t at the mercy of another party to sustain her government, but she does know something about taking over office after a long stint in opposition. She is also equipped to impart knowledge about the matters people ultimately care most about when it comes to their government.

    The Premier told me during a chat last week that while she appreciates B.C. NDP Leader John Horgan may have apprehensions when it comes to the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, she said he will also need to demonstrate concern for good jobs for regular working families if and when he takes over as premier.

    “I think when they are a little ways into government and they are faced with that issue, with the weight of governance on their shoulders, it will put that particular consideration into much sharper focus,” Ms. Notley said.

    In other words, it’s one thing to campaign against pipelines and the construction of hydro-electric dams, but when you start throwing people out of work as a result of your actions it becomes another thing entirely. Maybe most people in Metro Vancouver don’t rely on hard-hat jobs to earn a living, but there is another part of the province that does. And while voters didn’t elect many NDP MLAs outside of the Lower Mainland in the recent provincial election, the party will soon have to concern itself with that half of the province, too.

    Mr. Horgan has promised he will adopt the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which vows to give First Nations “prior and informed” consent on any projects on their territory – disputed or otherwise. In B.C., that is virtually the entire province. There is a school of thought that this edict gives Indigenous communities a veto over resource development. At the very least, it could slow the process significantly.

    In the meantime, Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver told First Nations leaders this week that he hopes to flip the approach to resource development on its ear. He said he wants to consult Indigenous leaders at the beginning of the process, not at the end of it. He’s promising the community a seat at the table that it has never had before.

    Again, all this is noble and sounds wonderful. But the real-world reverberations these new tacks could set off may create enormous headaches for a new government with well-meaning but ultimately naive ambitions.

    Mr. Horgan has identified his early priorities in office, should events unfold as expected, and they don’t include any big job-creation initiatives. Instead, they focus largely around campaign finance and electoral reform, which are important, undoubtedly, but don’t help people pay the bills. Mr. Weaver talks about building a new economy around green technology and high-tech businesses, but he hasn’t really laid out a timeline for developing such a plan – presuming he can get the NDP to adopt his strategic impulses.

  2. This is extremely tricky terrain for the NDP and the Greens – especially the New Democrats. They don’t have a guaranteed four-year runway with which to work. They could have a year, maybe two. Fairly or not, they will be judged on whatever record they achieve in that limited time.

    While democratic reforms will most certainly be welcome, those measures could well be undermined if there is any retreat on the economic front. B.C. was a jobs leader under the Liberals. The NDP knows that fiscal and economic stewardship remain the party’s Achilles heel in the minds of the public.

    The NDP’s ability to get this part of governing right will likely determine its future.

    “Quote end

    References: ( https://beta.theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/bcs-ndp-greens-enter-tricky-terrain-moving-from-campaigning-to-governing/article35279674/ )

    References:
    BC 2nd election is in proceeding!
    ( https://m.facebook.com/notes/gordon-fdwilson/lieutenant-governor-within-her-right-to-force-election-to-determine-government/10158854371230296/ )

    References:
    Fighting Evil for our Faith!
    ( https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=176533652877913&id=100015638382302 )

    References:
    Why BC must build Site C Dam?
    ( https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=177649322766346&id=100015638382302 )

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