Christy Clark is defeated, here's what comes next

Jun 30 2017, 12:45 am

So Christy Clark has lost the confidence of the BC Legislature. Now we’re looking at a BC NDP minority government – or a snap election.

Yes, really.

BC Liberals leader Christy Clark faced a test of confidence in the legislature on Thursday, when MLAs voted on a non-confidence motion tabled by BC NDP leader John Horgan.

As expected, that motion passed 44-42 this afternoon, with the full support of the BC NDP and the BC Greens, therefore signing and sealing the BC Liberals’ defeat.

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“If this marks the end of our government then I stand here in humility and with great gratitude to the people of British Columbia,” Clark said in the legislature on Thursday.

What happens next would be up to Lt.-Gov. Judith Guichon, the Queen’s representative in BC, who Clark has gone to meet after her defeat.

Guichon can either dissolve the legislature prompting a new election, or she can ask BC NDP leader John Horgan to try to form the next BC government.

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, before her defeat, Clark conceded she would likely be toppled, and said that she would then have some advice for Guichon.

“If she asks me do I think the legislature is working, or do I think that it can work, I’ve got to be honest,” said Clark.

“It isn’t working. There is no effort on the part of either party to want to work together. There is no effort to collaborate. This isn’t a working legislature.”

Clark said she had seen no evidence that the BC NDP and the BC Greens had the numbers needed to actually govern, and she would advise Guichon so.

Notably, if the BC NDP or BC Greens were to put forward a Speaker for the house, it would leave them tied on 43 seats with the BC Liberals.

This could lead to many tie votes on bills, with the Speaker expected to break the tie.

Faced with Clark’s advice, it is unclear what Guichon will choose to do – but she could choose to dissolve the legislature, prompting another election to settle the matter.

Day of reckoning

The day of reckoning comes almost two months after the BC provincial election, which left the BC Liberals with 43 seats, the BC NDP with 41, and the BC Greens with 3.

In the aftermath, the BC Greens negotiated with both the BC Liberals and the BC NDP to see if they could work with a party to support a minority government.

Ultimately, BC Greens leader Andrew Weaver announced they had agreed to support a BC NDP minority government with Horgan.

Meanwhile, Clark came under pressure to step down, after the final BC Election count confirmed no party had won the election.

However, after the BC NDP and BC Greens announced their agreement, Clark came out fighting, saying she would not be resigning from her post as BC Premier.

Instead, she said, she would be recalling the legislature to test the confidence of the house, by introducing a throne speech to see if it would pass.

On June 12, Clark and her cabinet were sworn in by Guichon. Ten days later, last Thursday, she finally recalled the legislature and introduced her throne speech.

The speech, which lays out the BC Liberals’ plans for government, borrowed heavily from what had been in the BC NDP and BC Green campaign platforms.

Debate or delay?

The BC Legislature in Victoria (BGSmith/Shutterstock)

The BC Legislature in Victoria (BGSmith/Shutterstock)

The legislature then adjourned until this Monday, when a variety of bills were introduced by the BC Liberals and voted down blind by the BC NDP and BC Greens.

And then, finally, came the traditional period of debate on the throne speech, which traditionally lasts around four days.

Much of that debate has been long speeches by the BC Liberals, punctuated by criticism from the BC NDP and BC Greens and attempts to get to a vote.

Meanwhile, the BC Liberals have been accused of delaying democracy, while the BC NDP and BC Greens have been criticized for voting down BC Liberal bills sight unseen.

Whether Clark’s latest announcement is a last ditch attempt to scare opposition MLAs into voting for her throne speech, to avoid an election, remains to be seen.

But whatever Clark’s advice now, Guichon could still ask Horgan to form the next BC government, with the support of Weaver.

As new BC Premier, Horgan would then have to recall the legislature and attempt to pass his own throne speech or budget to see if he had the confidence of the house.

If that passed, presumably with the support of the BC Greens, then Horgan and the BC NDP minority government would continue.

After 16 years in power, the BC Liberals would be relegated to the Opposition, and Clark’s position as leader could look decidedly precarious.

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