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

Greater Victoria enjoys sunny first day of spring

Summer-like temperatures of 21 degrees hit Wednesday for first day of spring

Esquimalt puts freeze on taxes for local businesses

The tax increase for residents sits at 5.51 per cent, averaging to an additional $46

Bitter Saturna land-use dispute highlights legal grey areas

Unhappy Tsawout accuse leadership of cultural destruction

Development replacing Fairfield United Church gets final approval

The new Unity Commons Development will take over the space at 1303 Fairfield Rd.

Saanich forwards student-targeted development to public hearing

Proposed development advertises itself to individuals who want a car-free lifestyle

VIDEO: Can you believe it? This B.C. hill pulls cars backwards up a slope

Sir Isaac Newton had clearly never been to this Vernon anomaly when he discovered gravity

Greater Victoria Wanted List for the week of March 19

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

POLL: When do you think the next major earthquake will hit Vancouver Island?

According to seismologists, Vancouver Island is overdue for a magnitude 7 earthquake.… Continue reading

Canucks hang on for 7-4 win over Senators

Horvat nets 2 for Vancouver

European, Canadian regulators to do own review of Boeing jet

Air Canada plans to remove the Boeing 737 Max from its schedule at least through July 1

Prime minister defends Liberal budget measures as sales effort gets underway

Conservatives under Andrew Scheer say it’s a spree funded by borrowing against the future

Mayor meets with B.C. health minister on homeless taxi transfers

Two homeless people were discharged from Surrey Memorial and sent to a Chilliwack shelter

B.C. lottery winner being sued by co-workers

They claim he owes them $200,000 each, in a lawsuit filed in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver

Teacher reprimanded for conduct towards special needs student

Alan Stephen Berry told vice principal he did not have time to use positive strategies

Most Read