VICTORIA – Politicians have been called back to the British Columbia legislature on June 22, setting the stage for a showdown between the ruling Liberals and two opposition parties that want to defeat them.
Premier Christy Clark has said she expects to lose a confidence vote in the house after the New Democrats and Greens reached an agreement to allow the NDP to form a minority government.
No party won a majority of seats in a provincial election last month. The Liberals won 43 seats in the 87-seat legislature, with the NDP winning 41 seats and the Greens three.
The results left Clark with a tenuous grip on power and spelled the likely end for the Liberals’ 16 years in government.
Government House Leader Mike de Jong says the first order of business will be to elect a Speaker.
“After which, and in the aftermath of a very close election, the government will seek to determine if it continues to enjoy the confidence of the house, he said in a statement Wednesday.
Before de Jong made the announcement, Horgan expressed his frustration about the length of time it was taking the Liberals to recall the legislature.
“I can’t walk down the street now without someone coming up to me and saying, ‘So are you the premier or is she the premier? What’s going on?’ ” he said earlier Wednesday.
“I think we need to get certainty. It’s well over a month since election day. People want to know. Let’s get on with it.”
Green Leader Andrew Weaver welcomed the decision to recall the house.
“I’m glad that the premier has finally decided to recall the legislature,” Weaver said in a statement. “In the weeks since the election, it has been encouraging to see all three parties agree that British Columbians want us to work together.”
The first order of business — selecting a Speaker — is a tall one. The narrow election results mean none of the three parties are eager to give up one of their voting members to take on the role.
“I rather suspect they’re all going to file in, take their seats and stare at each other for a while,” said Hamish Telford, a political scientist at the University of the Fraser Valley.
The Speaker enforces the rules in the legislature and only votes in the event of a tie, and even then only to maintain the status quo, as per tradition.
All members of the legislature who are not cabinet ministers are eligible to be Speaker, Telford said.
Telford said he expects Clark to announce a cabinet before June 22 and she could appoint potential Speakers from her party to cabinet, such as former Speaker Linda Reid, to make them ineligible for the job.
When there has been an impasse over the Speaker, legislatures have been dissolved and another election held, he said.
But if a Speaker is chosen, the government would introduce a throne speech, Telford said. There would be a reply from the Opposition, a debate and then a confidence vote.
If the Speaker comes from the Liberals, it’s likely the government will be defeated. If the Speaker is a New Democrat, a tie is expected, he said.
Telford said in that case, he thinks the Speaker would likely break with convention and vote against the Liberal government.
“I have yet to find a case anywhere in the Commonwealth where a Speaker has voted in such a way that it leads to the defeat of the government,” he said. “That’s not to say there hasn’t been a case, but I haven’t found one.”