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