What constitutional crisis?
On Monday, BC NDP leader John Horgan stopped at a local coffeeshop in Cranbrook to meet with local residents after taking a tour of the Galloway Lumber Company mill operation and pledging support for the industry in the softwood lumber dispute.
He took time to chat with individuals while also taking command of the room to answer commonly-asked questions — most of which had to do with the current political intrigue in Victoria.
The recent provincial election returned a Liberal minority government with 43 seats with 44 seats needed to reach the threshold for a majority. The NDP captured 41 seats, however, they inked a deal with the Green Party — which won a historic three ridings — to topple the Liberal minority and govern together by lending each other support on confidence votes.
There’s been a lot of sound and fury coming from the southern tip of Vancouver Island about what happens next.
The Liberals are expected to deliver a throne speech on Thursday in the Legislature that is apparently chock-full of issues the Liberals either ignored or were loath to address during their 17 years in power.
For example, the speech has the Liberals raising income assistance rates by $100 a month — the first rate raise in over a decade.
Other policies include a plan to reform corporate and union donations and addressing an expansion for a single-parent employment program.
However, the first order of business before the speech will be choosing a Speaker of the House, which consists of a secret-ballot election by the MLAs.
The Liberals have confirmed they will not have a speaker from their ranks prop up a NDP/Green alliance if the Liberal government loses a confidence vote.
That means the NDP or Greens will have to dip into their ranks for a Speaker, which brings their alliance from 44 to 43. It also means that the Speaker — a traditionally non partisan role that regulates the debates in the House — will have to cast the tie breaking vote.
Again, according to tradition, the Speaker usually votes to continue the debate and side with the government, which won’t infringe on their mandate for impartiality, said Horgan.
He also accused Christy Clark and the Liberals of “making mischief” by manufacturing a crisis out of the routine parliamentary procedure of electing a Speaker of the House.
“We will elect a speaker and we will still command a majority of the members in the legislature,” Horgan said. “I believe this has become an issue because the Liberals didn’t want to acknowledge that they’d been beaten, in terms of the vote between the NDP and the Greens, and they’ve used the Speaker as some sort of a problem for the future of the government.
“It’s not a problem. We can appoint a speaker and conduct business in the legislature. The speaker’s role is to not vote for or against the government, but to continue debate. That’s been the tradition in houses of parliament all across the Commonwealth and wherever there is a British parliamentary system, so I’m not at all concerned about it.”
Horgan said Linda Reid, who has held the position for the last four years, would be a perfect candidate considering she has done the job for the last four years. However, Reid was recently appointed as Minister of Advanced Education by Christy Clark when she unveiled her Cabinet.
Horgan lamented the slow pace of reconvening the legislature following the election on May 9th, noting that the United Kingdom has had an election and returned their parliamentary members in that time period already.
“Most people are frustrated that it’s been a bit of delay and distraction by the Liberals and I think the sooner we get going, the sooner we can get going with the school year in September,” Horgan said. “It’s going to be a challenge with the Supreme Court ruling on class size and compositions; that’s just one of many, many issues.”
The Liberals will deliver their throne speech in the Legislature on Thursday, June 22.
With files from Black Press Legislative Columnist Tom Fletcher