Speaking of the “Speaker”
Prince George, B.C. – Minister of Finance and House Leader, Mike de Jong says while a stable government may have been the intent of Green Leader Andrew Weaver, the exact opposite has happened.
At issue is the position of Speaker of the House. The government is responsible for ensuring there is a person in that post. The Speaker only votes in the case of a tie, and traditionally supports the government. But de Jong says the idea that if defeated, the Liberals would allow one from their own ranks to continue to “prop up” the NDP/ Green alliance, “Just reveals just how ill thought out this whole approach is.”
“I don’t think they thought this through” says de Jong, “In the desire of the opposition to try and form a government in difficult minority circumstances, they cobbled together this agreement without really thinking about its practical workability.”
Here’s the problem. Right now the Liberals have 43 seats. The NDP and Greens have a combined 44 seats. Once the Liberals put forth a speaker, they will be down to 42 and the combined Opposition would have a two seat majority. But, if the Liberals are defeated in a non confidence vote, it would be expected the combined Opposition (that would become Government), would put forth their own Speaker, so once again, there would be a government with 43 seats, and the opposition ( the Liberals in this case) would have 43. This is the reason why the NDP/Greens want the Liberal Speaker to remain in the chair.
“Mr. Weaver ( Green Party leader) stated first and foremost was that he was seeking stability, and then he went about negotiating an agreement that achieves precisely the opposite” says de Jong.
The Legislature resumes next Thursday, at which time a Throne speech will be delivered. There will then be up to 6 days of debate on that speech, during which time de Jong says the opposition could force a vote of confidence, which would, in effect topple the government. “My guess is that will take place after four days of debate on the Throne speech. and we’ll see what happens there.”
While the NDP and Greens have criticized the Christy Clark team for taking so long to reconvene the Legislature, de Jong says the timing is not unusual at all, especially given the circumstances “I went back and checked, and the last six elections have taken place in May in only one other instance, has the House convened earlier than June 22nd, so I understand how desperately anxious they are, they have an opportunity now to form government, but we were delayed a couple of weeks longer from this election because we didn’t know who’d won.”
It is not lost on de Jong that this election clearly demonstrated an urban rural divide among voters “Many people, not all, but many people in the Lower Mainland cant get their head wound the fact that so much success we ( British Columbia) have had as a Province is attributable to what is taking place in our resource dependent communities and the new economies that have grow up in Northern B.C.”
But as rare as the current political scenario may be in B.C. there are rules that must be followed says deJong “There is a set of time honoured rules and standing orders that have built up not only over decades but over centuries to guide how this takes place. So when I say the NDP and Greens are unable to create , as much as they desire to, a practical working majority it is because of those rules, it’s because of the obligations they have to provide a Speaker, to provide a Chair for committee, once they start to do that, it’s clear the majority of one starts to disappear.” He says he is concerned about talk the NDP and Greens intend to change the rules to suite this circumstance “That’s very dangerous, these are rules, protocols and conventions that have developed, as I said, over centuries. They are what gives our democratic institutions stability and predictability.”
Ultimately the scenario will see Lieutenant Governor Judith Gouchon having to make a decision about sending voters back to the polls says de Jong as the “workability” of the NDP/Green majority “is very much in doubt.”