The BC Legislature has a speaker at last, but it’s anyone’s guess for how long.
BC Liberal MLA and former Minister of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resources Steve Thomson was elected to the job Thursday morning.
Thomson was the only MLA to put their name forward and hence was chosen by acclimation.
Thomson was elected as the House’s first order of business, as nothing else can be done in the Legislature — including Thursday afternoon’s Throne Speech — until someone has the job.
But while the Kelowna-Mission MLA sits in the speaker’s chair for now, he may only have the job for a week or so.
The BC Liberals have maintained that they won’t provide a speaker under an NDP government, with a spokesperson for the party saying earlier this month that the entire Liberal caucus has agreed not to stand for the position.
The NDP and Greens have argued that convention dictates that a speaker, once elected, keep the job until the next election, while the Liberals have argued it’s up to the government of the day to provide a speaker.
While opposition speakers are uncommon, they are not unheard of. Most recently, Federal Liberal Peter Milliken served as speaker under Stephen Harper’s 2006 minority government.
However, in B.C.’s razor thin minority Legislature, there is far less incentive for such courtesy between the parties.
With the NDP-Green alliance holding just one more seat than the BC Liberals, providing a speaker from the alliance’s own ranks will leave members on the floor tied at 43-43.
That means nearly every vote will come to a tie, forcing the speaker — traditionally an impartial ‘referee’ of the Legislature — to cast partisan tie-breaking votes in favour of the government.