Veteran of Minority Governments Weighs in on BC Election
Prince George, B.C. – His experience may be on the federal side of politics, but UNBC Chancellor James Moore knows a thing or two about minority governments.
Moore served 15 years as a Conservative MP in Ottawa – seven of those in minority parliaments from 2004 to 2011 – and admits they’re unstable but workable.
“We had a very weak minority in the 2006 parliament. Stephen Harper had 124 seats in a 308 seat House,” he says. “So, that was a very weak minority but we lasted for two-and-a-half-years because we prioritized what we wanted to do, we reached out to opposition parties – the Bloc Quebecois and Liberals at the time. The NDP didn’t have a balance of power like the Greens in B.C.”
He says those two-and-a-half-years was longer than the average shelf life of a year-and-a-half for minority governments and says collaboration was the key.
“We had to cooperate and we had to compromise and that can be the best of politics. However, the down side of minority parliaments is that they drive short-term thinking and the minority parliaments we had between 2004 and 2011 were some of the nastiest parliaments that we had. Just really vicious.”
As for his read on the current situation in B.C.?
“Far be it from me to give strategic advice to other parties but if John Horgan were smart in his approach to this, he would be a clear, temperamentally moderate, thoughtful opposition party to be clearly seen as the alternative government.”
He says the BC Liberals on the other hand would be wise to compromise and work with the Green Party, whom he argues weren’t really competing to govern.
“What their election platform is is a very long list of several boutique policies and ideas, many of which I think a B.C. Liberal free-enterprise government could feel real comfort with. Investment into public transportation, investment in green technologies, campaign finance reform – which is sorely needed in this province for all the reasons that we all know,” says Moore.
“I think there are enough issues in the Green platform that are entirely in sync broadly with the public that it wouldn’t offend the B.C. Liberal voter base and that a government could last 12-18 months.”
But after that, he says it’s anyone’s guess.
“It’s only a two-seat difference, so God forbid some MLAs have some health challenges or maybe someone decides to run for municipal politics in 2018 or federal politics in 2019,” says Moore.
“Gregor Robertson, people forget, was an MLA before he was the mayor of Vancouver. He was in office for six months or a year and he just didn’t like it and quit. So, for Christy Clark, with a one MLA balance of power when you take away the speaker, anything can happen.”
In the short-term however, he says parliamentary tradition dictates that Clark will get the first crack at governing.
“She won the most votes – barely – but she won the most votes. She won the most seats. The lieutenant governor will likely invite her to form a government but it’s up to Clark now to demonstrate the confidence of the legislature by reaching out to Andrew Weaver and I think she can do that.”