February 14, 2019 7:39 pm

NDP squeaks out narrow victory on Speech from the Throne vote after high drama

Speaker of the legislature Darryl Plecas delivers remarks before the speech from the throne in the legislative assembly in Victoria, B.C., on September 8, 2017. The Opposition Liberals say the Speaker of the British Columbia legislature wanted his special adviser appointed acting sergeant-at-arms before two top officials were placed on administrative leave this week pending an investigation. Liberal house leader Mary Polak released a sworn affidavit today saying Speaker Darryl Plecas told the three house leaders on Monday that he wanted Alan Mullen appointed the acting sergeant-at-arms. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

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The B.C. government has passed its Speech from the Throne — barely. After much confusion, the NDP squeaked by with 42 votes in favour of the speech and 40 votes against.

The speech was not expected to be voted on for days, but because of a mix-up by the NDP in the legislature, a vote was called on Wednesday in the late afternoon. The NDP were expected to speak to the throne speech but after two Liberals spoke, no government MLAs stood in the chamber to speak. That led to a vote being called at 5:14 pm.

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Speaker Darryl Plecas then took 10 minutes to sort out what was unfolding. Having a vote on the throne speech after no government speakers is exceedingly rare.

“Prior to the vote proceeding the chair wanted to ensure that this unexpected division was in order,” Plecas said on Thursday. “The chamber doors should have been locked five minutes after the vote being called.”

The legislature’s standing orders require the doors to be locked to the legislature five minutes after the bells ring to indicate that a vote has been called. Plecas says the situation was “irregular” and that is why the vote was extended.

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“The fact the chamber doors remained open for five minutes beyond the allotted time did not result in any additional members entering the chamber,” Plecas said. “I conclude the result of the division would have been the same.”

The close call is a wake-up call for the B.C. NDP, who are governing with a slim majority in the chamber with the support of the B.C. Greens. Now that MLA Sheila Malcolmson has been sworn in, the NDP has 41 MLAs. With the three Greens MLAs, the two parties have 44 votes and just enough to pass legislation in an 87 seat legislature.

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A defeat in the throne speech would not have led to the fall of the government, but it would have been embarrassing for the government. It also hurts the party’s ability to extend the legislative session because the throne speech is often used as a chance for MLAs to speak for hours about a broad range of issues.

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