Andrew Weaver and John Horgan
Andrew Weaver and John Horgan (BCNDP)

It’s look­ing increas­ing­ly like­ly that British Colum­bia will soon be admin­is­tered by a much more pro­gres­sive gov­ern­ment than the one it has now.

B.C. JournalAt 2 PM today in Vic­to­ria, the lead­ers of the province’s two largest pro­gres­sive par­ties (the BCNDP and the BC Greens) made a joint appear­ance to announce they have nego­ti­at­ed a deal that could result in a new gov­ern­ment for the province.

Green Leader Andrew Weaver said his par­ty had held dis­cus­sions with both the incum­bent Lib­er­als, led by Pre­mier Christy Clark, as well as the New Democ­rats, led by John Hor­gan. Ulti­mate­ly, the Greens chose to for­mal­ize a con­fi­dence and sup­ply agree­ment with the BCNDP, which could make Hor­gan the province’s next premier.

The Greens have far more in com­mon with the NDP than the Lib­er­als, so this deal makes sense. The Lib­er­als, despite their name, are a right­ward-ori­ent­ed polit­i­cal par­ty that embraces con­ser­v­a­tive prin­ci­ples. Under Clark, they have seem­ing­ly not encoun­tered an oil or liq­ue­fied nat­ur­al gas (LNG) project they don’t like.

The Lib­er­als also love cor­po­rate mon­ey and have used the province’s lack of cam­paign con­tri­bu­tion lim­its to their advan­tage in many elections.

Hor­gan and Weaver are report­ed­ly not fond of each oth­er. But it seems they were able to put their dif­fer­ences aside for the good of the province. They were all smiles at today’s press con­fer­ence, and shared an extend­ed hand­shake fol­low­ing their intro­duc­to­ry remarks. They spent the week­end at a rug­by match together.

In a democ­ra­cy based on a par­lia­men­tary sys­tem, a con­fi­dence and sup­ply agree­ment is basi­cal­ly arrange­ment that can enable a minor­i­ty gov­ern­ment to form and con­tin­ue func­tion­ing over a peri­od of time. Wikipedia defines it as “an agree­ment that a par­ty or inde­pen­dent mem­ber of par­lia­ment will sup­port the gov­ern­ment in motions of con­fi­dence and appro­pri­a­tion (sup­ply) votes by vot­ing in favor or abstain­ing, while retain­ing the right to oth­er­wise vote on conscience.”

Under the terms of this agree­ment, the BCNDP would be respon­si­ble for form­ing a gov­ern­ment (pre­sum­ably with Hor­gan as Pre­mier), and the Greens would pro­vide the votes nec­es­sary for the gov­ern­ment to win con­fi­dence and bud­get votes.

The two par­ties togeth­er would hold the slimmest of majori­ties… forty-four of eighty-sev­en seats in BC’s Leg­isla­tive Assembly.

“In the end we had to make a dif­fi­cult deci­sion,” Weaver told the assem­bled press. “A deci­sion we felt was in the best inter­est of British Colum­bia today and that deci­sion as for the BC Greens to work with the BCNDP for a sta­ble minor­i­ty gov­ern­ment over the four-year term.”

For the agree­ment to go into effect, it must be rat­i­fied by the BCNDP cau­cus. Then, Judith Gui­chon, the Lieu­tenant Gov­er­nor of British Colum­bia — who serves as the rep­re­sen­ta­tive of Her Majesty Queen Eliz­a­beth II at the provin­cial lev­el — would have to ask Hor­gan to form a gov­ern­ment. Pick­ing a pre­mier is explic­it­ly defined as one of the Lieu­tenant Gov­er­nor’s con­sti­tu­tion­al respon­si­bil­i­ties:

The Lieu­tenant Gov­er­nor upholds the con­sti­tu­tion­al frame­work in British Colum­bia. In this role the Lieu­tenant Gov­er­nor per­son­i­fies the Crown, which is both the apex and the uni­fy­ing link in the con­sti­tu­tion­al and polit­i­cal struc­ture of the province – exec­u­tive, leg­isla­tive, and judi­cial. The Cana­di­an Crown plays a key func­tion in under­writ­ing our con­sti­tu­tion­al sta­bil­i­ty while enabling offi­cials, demo­c­ra­t­i­cal­ly elect­ed by the cit­i­zens, to govern.

To uphold the con­sti­tu­tion­al frame­work the Lieu­tenant Governor:

  • Ensures the con­tin­ued exis­tence of gov­ern­ment in the Province of British Columbia;
  • Selects a First Min­is­ter as Pre­mier of the Province;
  • Appoints and admin­is­ters the Oaths of Office, Alle­giance and Con­fi­den­tial­i­ty to the Pre­mier and mem­bers of the Exec­u­tive Council;
  • Sum­mons, pro­rogues and dis­solves the Legislature;
  • Deliv­ers the Speech from the Throne;
  • Pro­vides Roy­al Assent to provin­cial legislation;
  • Signs orders-in-coun­cil, procla­ma­tions and oth­er offi­cial doc­u­ments before they have the force of law;
  • Presents Bills by Mes­sage into the Leg­is­la­ture when they involve tax­a­tion or expen­di­ture of pub­lic money.

For the time being, Christy Clark remains Pre­mier. But in the wake of this agree­ment, she will not have the votes to gov­ern the province. She can either choose to resign or test the con­fi­dence of the Leg­isla­tive Assem­bly when it returns.

Clark has giv­en no indi­ca­tion that she plans to resign since the May 9th elec­tion. In advance of the Weaver/Horgan press con­fer­ence, she post­ed a bland forty-eight sec­ond long video this morn­ing on social media loaded with plat­i­tudes, in which she acknowl­edged “uncer­tain­ty” stem­ming from the results of the elec­tion, then pro­ceed­ed to pay lip ser­vice to the idea of tripartianship.

After the press con­fer­ence end­ed, Clark released a statement.

“It’s vital­ly impor­tant that British Columbians see the spe­cif­ic details of the agree­ment announced today by the BC NDP and Green Par­ty lead­ers, which could have far-reach­ing con­se­quences for our province’s future,” she said.

“As the incum­bent gov­ern­ment, and the par­ty with the most seats in the leg­is­la­ture, we have a respon­si­bil­i­ty to care­ful­ly con­sid­er our next steps. I will con­sult on those steps with the new­ly elect­ed BC Lib­er­al cau­cus, and have more to say tomorrow.”

We’ll keep you post­ed on what hap­pens next.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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