Oh, what a night!
It was quite the evening in BC politics last night (June 20th, 2017). It was a much anticipated evening as people in BC knew there would be a resolution of the political stalemate we had been living in since the BC Election on May 9th, 2017. Would there be another dreaded election or would John Horgan be the next premier of BC? We were all on tenterhooks awaiting the decision of the Lieutenant Governor.
It all started with the windup of the speeches in the legislature on the Throne Speech. Christy Clark was the last to speak with her last ditch attempt to convince any NDP or Green MLA to support her. One of her lines is that if she did not win the vote, she would accept it in humility. This was not the first time that Christy Clark had mentioned humility but everyone knows she is anything but humble and it made her sound so implausible. When the non-confidence motion was voted on, the vote was 44-42 and the Liberals went down in flames.
I have never been sure why Premier Christy Clark pushed the legislature to this point as the reality was she would lose the vote. Did she really think that by changing her Throne speech to adopt the NDP and Green agenda that she would win MLA’s over to her side? Did she really think that by trying to introduce two laws on the banning of corporate and union donations and making the Green Party an official opposition party that she would gain the trust and confidence of the house? Or was it her way of setting up the NDP to look like they could not have the confidence of the House? Her delaying the Throne Speech to June 19th to buy her time to hold onto power was so transparent. Her promise to not have another election was empty as she reversed that promise and told the public the house could not operate and she would tell the LG that if asked. It was the way that she ran the legislature that made it not work. She also said that she would let the voters decide on her throne speech meaning there would be an election if she had her way. She had her chance for the May 9th election and messed that up so why did she deserve a second chance when she couldn't win on her own platform? The immediate resignation of Steve Thompson after the vote as speaker also revealed the petty politics the Liberals were involved in. Sad reflection of the past government.
After the non-confidence vote around 5:20 p.m., Christy Clark immediately made her way to Government house to meet the Lieutenant Governor Judith Guichon. She spent almost an hour and a half with her. Everyone was speculating as to what was taking so long and what was happening inside the House. We found out later that Christy Clark tried hard to convince the LG to call an election. I imagined the Vice Regal calmly sitting in her chair, listening carefully to Clark trying to charm her into believing an election is what BC needed. And an almost grandmotherly response, “I want your resignation and I will allow the NDP to gain the confidence of the house.” Letting her know she saw through her schemes and manipulations and was going to follow the constitutional mandate she had. This was a huge role for the Lieutenant Governor to play in a volatile political situation. This was a part of her role that has never been exercised to make such a huge decision in the history of BC. Much was at stake for her, her credibility was on the line.
The role of the Lieutenant Governor was never meant to be political, and her responses had to be in line with her constitutional duties. We know that prior to this meeting with Christy Clark that she would have spent hours seeking advice on her options and what she could and could not do. I am sure that weighed heavy on Judith Guichon as she went through this process. All eyes were on her as she made her decision that would direct the future of BC. She would be subject to heavy criticism if she made the wrong decision.
When Christy Clark came out around 7:20 p.m.she had her usual smiles, but not the usual buoyancy she always portrayed. She only said the Lieutenant Governor had retired to make her decision. Then it was another waiting game.
Around 8 p.m. John Horgan arrived at Government House to the cheers to many waiting to see what would happen. It was a good sign that the Lieutenant Governor would ask him to take over government. This was only a sign and not the conclusion.
It was with a big sigh of relief that after a short conversation with the Lieutenant Governor that John Horgan came out of Government House around 8:15 p.m. to report he had been asked to lead the government. Finally, BC had their answer. After 16 years of Liberal rule there would be change. I am hoping it is a good change and not the same old government responses.
There is so much to last evening that I will wonder about and may never know. Like how did the Liberal MLA’s feel about how the Premier conducted herself after finding out they didn’t have a majority government. Were they embarrassed? Were they angry? Did they feel stifled in their own free will by having to follow the party line? The writing was on the wall. Couldn’t they bow out gracefully and respect the wishes of the electorate? They had done their work for many years and could hold their heads high by saying they did what they could even though not everyone agreed with them. The Throne speech I am sure was the hardest for them. Everything they had fought against was in that speech. Removing bridge tolls, adding a billion dollar to child care and early childhood education , adding a $100 a month to social assistance rates to name a few. Liberal MLA’s then had to rationalize to the people in their ridings why they changed their positions and where all the money had come from. Will they keep her on as leader of the party when they can see she was only hanging onto power for power sake and made them look desperate? Only time will tell.
What do we have to look forward to under this new government assuming it can operate in a minority situation with an alliance with the Green Party?
In the NDP/Green agreement they have agreed to do the following:
- “Creating jobs, acting on climate change, and building a sustainable economy that works for everyone”. I look forward to a sustainable economy.
- “support the adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission calls- to-action and the Tsilhqot’in Supreme Court decision. We will ensure the new government reviews policies, programs and legislation to determine how to bring the principles of the Declaration into action in BC.” I hope the NDP government will set up inclusive systems on working with First Nations on how the Declaration and TRC recommendations can be put into action. Must have strong First Nation input and their consent if living up to Declaration principles.
- “Implement a climate action strategy to meet our targets.” There is nothing more important than addressing climate change and adopting all the recommendations of the climate Action Leadership Team and other actions as put forward by First Nations.
- “Immediately refer the Site C dam construction project to the BC Utilities Commission on the question of economic viability and consequences to British Columbians in the context of the current supply and demand conditions prevailing in the BC market.” I didn’t think that the agreement went far enough on Site C as it should have been stopped. This is only one action and no commitment what they will do with BCUC recommendation. There are also no commitments to create clean energy by the IPP industry and in particular First Nation power producers. Hoping the BCUC can come up with an answer in 6 weeks as every day the Peace River and it
- “Immediately employ every tool available to the new government to stop the expansion of the Kinder Morgan pipeline, the seven-fold increase in tanker traffic on our coast, and the transportation of raw bitumen through our province.” I am totally in agreement with this. Not only will the bitumen affect the province but the oceans that First Nations rely on to get our sea resources so I am glad it includes the coast of BC.
The NDP platform added some more commitments for First Nation in child care, renewable energy, housing, training an apprenticeships, a share in the gaming industry, increase First Nations participation in mining, forestry, technology, manufacturing, fishing and energy, develop co-develop curriculum for indigenous language and histories, and provide support to indigenous communities wanting to revitalize connections to their languages. Some good commitments.
All in all, it is a lot of work to do, but if you have a willing government to work with, much can be accomplished.
It is a new day and maybe a new British Columbia. I hope so, it has been a struggle under the Christy Clark government who didn’t work closely with First Nations unless it suited her own economic purposes. It is time for a change and a new direction.
It is a precarious situation for the NDP, but it is a new way to do politics in BC that deserves a chance. Not every country in this world runs on majority governments and they can make it work. It is with hope that things will change that may lead to a brighter future for First Nations where their free prior and informed consent is obtained before any developments that will impact negatively on their rights. Time to get to work.