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)

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

BC Election 2017BC Votes 2017

Just Posted

Law Enforcement Torch Run in support of Special Olympics B.C. kicks off with a run at Swan Lake on June 6. The virtual fundraiser runs until June 20. (Saanich Police/Twitter)
Torch run seeks to scorch previous fundraiser, targets $75,000 for Special Olympics

Global movement shoots for 40,000 km in honour of the 40th anniversary

West Shore RCMP K9 Halla. (Black Press Media file photo)
Sound of RCMP dog enough to stop suspects in Oak Bay

West Shore RCMP K9 unit called in, didn’t get to chase

Colin Davidson won $100K on a Set for Life scratch ticket in Sooke. (BCLC photo)
Sooke man does ‘happy dance’ after scratching a $100,000 Set for Life win

Colin Davidson plans to renovate his home and invest in his daughter’s education

Proposed design for the Topaz Park bike and skate park elements. (Courtesy City of Victoria)
Victoria requesting feedback on Topaz Park redesign

Public input now being taken for proposed skate, bike park ideas

Improving safety at Keating Cross Road and the Pat Bay Highway is the goal of the flyover project currently in the works. The province aims to reveal the final cost and design this fall. (Screencap/Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure)
Final budget, design of Keating flyover in Central Saanich still in the works

Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure says information coming by this fall

People watch a car burn during a riot following game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver, B.C., in this June 15, 2011 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Howe
10 years ago: Where were you during the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots?

Smashed-in storefronts, looting, garbage can fires and overturned cars some of the damage remembered today

White Rock’s Marine Drive has been converted to one-way traffic to allow more patio space for waterfront restaurants. (Peace Arch News)
Province promotes permanent pub patios in B.C. post-pandemic plan

More than 2,000 temporary expansions from COVID-19 rules

Lake City Secondary School Williams Lake campus students Ethan Reid, from left, Brenden Higgins, Ty Oviatt, Kaleb Alphonse, Nathan Kendrick and Landon Brink with RCMP officers Const. Nicoll and Const. Stancec. (Photo submitted)
RCMP thank 6 teens for helping prevent forest fire in Williams Lake

The students came across fire in a wooded area and used the water they had to try and extinguish the flames

Nanaimo Aboriginal Centre has embarked on a fundraising campaign, seeking to raise $1 million for establishment of an independent urban Indigenous school. Pictured here, Tsawalk Learning Centre students at an Orange Shirt Day event in September. (Submitted photo)
Nanaimo Aboriginal Centre looks to raise $1 million for urban Indigenous school

Centre says independent school would be first of its kind in B.C.

There is an emergency shelter near the Golden Ears peaks. (Facebook/Special to The News)
Hiker fogged in on Golden Ears, spends 2 nights

Talon Helicopters, Ridge Meadows Search and Rescue bring him home Monday

Annamie Paul, leader of the Green Party of Canada, speaks at a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, on June 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Green Leader Annamie Paul facing no-confidence motion from party brass

move follows months of internal strife and the defection of MP Jenica Atwin to the Liberals

Tulips bloom in front of the Supreme Court of Canada in Ottawa, Thursday, May 10, 2018. Day two of a full week of scheduled hearings will be heard in Federal Court today on a case involving Indigenous children unnecessarily taken into foster care by what all parties call Canada’s “broken child welfare system.” THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
AFN slams Ottawa for ‘heartless’ legal challenge of First Nations child compensation

2019 decision awarded $40,000 to each Indigenous child removed before 2006

Rick Ruppenthal of Saltair will host a 12-hour talk-a-thon Friday, June 18 over Facebook live. (Photo submitted)
Talk-a-thon to focus on men’s mental health issues

Island man spearheading a campaign to generate more conversation during fundraiser

Ivy was thrown out of a moving vehicle in Kelowna. Her tail was severely injured and will be amputated. (BC SPCA)
Kitten thrown from moving vehicle, needs help: Kelowna SPCA

The seven-week-old kitten had severe tail and femur injuries

Most Read