Premier Christy Clark and Lt. Gov. Judith Guichon meet at the B.C. legislature for presentation of the last Speech from the Throne, Feb. 14, 2017. (ARNOLD LIM/BLACK PRESS)

Plot thickens at Victoria castle

Shades of Downton Abbey in fall of Christy Clark government

The sudden instability of the minority provincial government has generated interest in the ancient machinery of the B.C. legislature, its roots deep in British parliamentary tradition.

It’s shaping up like a lost seventh season of Downton Abbey, where the servant class finally takes over upstairs. Christy Clark, the Duchess of Dunbar, might have to don the apron of opposition leader. The coming weeks will be a live-action drama on how the B.C. government works, or doesn’t work.

I had a mix of responses to last week’s column, which described how Clark’s B.C. Liberals technically won the election and remain the government. By the second half of June this will be demonstrated, and the people who said I was (to put it politely) wrong will have a chance to learn more about the process that is now underway.

The latest crop of 87 MLAs will be sworn in by Lt. Gov. Judith Guichon. Clark’s temporary cabinet will then swear their oaths of office, and the stage will be set to convene the legislature and present a Speech from the Throne.

But before that or any other business can be conducted, MLAs must elect a Speaker from among their ranks in a secret-ballot vote, just like the one that citizens cast in the May 9 election. Since the tradition is that the Speaker only votes in cases of a tie, and then only to uphold the current government or to continue debate, the selection of Speaker is critical in a case where a single vote can spell defeat for either side.

The B.C. Liberals will have to provide a Speaker before they can present their throne speech, on which Clark expects to lose a vote after a few days of required debate. That Speaker would then resign to force the NDP-Green alliance to appoint their own. That individual has to come out of their 44 MLAs before they can send 43 B.C. Liberals to the opposition side.

Clark had the option to resign as premier once the two opposition parties signed an agreement to vote down the government’s throne speech or budget, with the three B.C. Green Party MLAs supporting a new NDP government on money bills and other “confidence” votes.

But “the lady’s not for turning,” as British PM Margaret Thatcher once said of herself. And Clark insisted that her government be defeated in the traditional way, in the “people’s house,” not in a “backroom deal.”

Speaking of backroom deals, and palace intrigue, the Province of B.C., a $50-billion-a-year operation, runs out of money in September. Clark’s move delays the NDP’s access to the transition information they need in order to prepare their own budget. The NDP could get spending warrants signed off by the Lt. Governor, but that never looks good. Sort of like going to one of those payday lenders.

Green Party leader Andrew Weaver, so pleased with himself he can barely contain it, may lose some of his enthusiasm soon. He and NDP leader John Horgan arranged a media turn to present their letter of agreement to Government House, where everyone seemed disappointed that Her Honour didn’t come to the door personally to collect the mail.

Weaver was emphatic that his deal with Horgan is not a “coalition,” and he won’t be Minister of Environment. So this is an NDP government, period.

Their deal talks about consultation and “no surprises,” but here’s one problem. Legal advice to the government can’t be shared with outsiders. Solicitor-client privilege and all that. It’s an upstairs thing.

Tom Fletcher is B.C. legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. Email: tfletcher@blackpress.ca Twitter: @tomfletcherbc

Just Posted

Curling Club Sponsor League keen on the ice

Weekly games began at the Quesnel Curling Club on Oct. 11

Biologist will be monitoring wildfire impacts on aqua culture and runoff

A change in runoff patterns in wildfire impacted areas could result in lakes not getting oxygenated properly

Snowy track made running very slick and slippery

Quesnel cross-country athletes dominated race and owned the podium

Silver Screen Scoundrels Quesnel performance an opportunity for a new experience

Homemade silent movie in background adds a unique atmosphere to performance

Quesnel and area forests could be wildfire resistant by using old practices

Cariboo Regional District chair Al Richmond spoke to fuel mitigation changes at UBCM

VIDEO: ‘Lyle the singing pig’ searching for home

SPCA say the pig is ‘not opera-ready’

Man in custody linked police search near Salmon Arm

Police have not connected arrest to search at Salmon River Road property

B.C. search groups mobilize for missing mushroom picker

Searchers from across the province look for Frances Brown who has been missing since Oct. 14.

Search for missing B.C. man a race against winter weather

David Jeff of Williams Lake was last seen in Kamloops during the chaotic wildfire evacuations

Man steals police car, goes for a ‘slow’ ride

Mission RCMP say the motive of the theft is unknown

Dodgers punch ticket to World Series

This will be the first time the Los Angles Dodgers have made it to the World Series since 1988.

Surf group winning the war on plastic bags

The Tofino Co-op will no longer provide plastic bags, following in the footsteps of the Ucluelet location that already made the change earlier this year.

All three victims identified in Fernie arena ammonia leak

Wayne Hornquist and Lloyd Smith were from Fernie and Jason Podloski from Turner Valley, Alta

B.C. woman plagued by bedbugs on airplane not surprising, says expert

Heather Szilagyi was on a British Airways flight when she noticed bedbugs crawling out of the seat

Most Read