Seven weeks and two days ago the preliminary results (pdf) of the 41st Provincial General Election in British Columbia were posted, and they remained unchanged two weeks later after all absentee ballots were counted and various reviews and challenges adressed. The ruling BC Liberal[O en.WP] government had lost its majority, and would be replaced by a coalition – either of itself or the New Democratic Party of British Columbia[O en.WP] would form a coalition with the rising Green Party of British Columbia[O en.WP].
But a funny thing happened on the way to change: the Liberal Party of British Columbia decided it did not want to lose gracefully.
We experienced a hint of this when, inexplicably, Christy Clark of the BC Liberals was excluded from negotiations with the BC Greens. Even earlier, the day the final results were announced John Horgan, leader of the BC NDP, and Andrew Weaver, leader of the BC Greens, each spoke separately with the media about the results and how they would engage with the other parties. Christie Clark sent a written statement.
Just a few days later the Greens and NDP announced they had reached an agreement which would result in a vote of no-confidence in the government of Christie Clark. Even knowing this to be the case, Ms. Clark went to Lt. Governor Judith Guichon to request to form government. This is traditional – the party with the most seats usually asks to be given the chance to form government first. But when there is a clear expectation that the government will fall immediately it is an expensive waste of time because you cannot pass legislation – all you can do is delay the inevitable for a short time. But Christy Clark thought she had a few tricks left in the bag.
First, she delayed. And delayed. And delayed. She promised to seat the parliament “soon, in early June.” They finally sat ‘later, end of June.’ And once seated she tried to wedge the Greens-NDP coalition by introducing a couple of laws which were tailored to precisely and only to do that – both violated Liberal platform planks.
Small digression: when a party campaigns on a platform they are telling voters that this is what they stand for, this is what they intend to do if they are elected. It is a form of contract. Sometimes it is not possible to follow through on a platform plank, for example “end all poverty”, because even though you cannot 100% fulfill that promise you can make efforts in that direction but most importantly you are promising not to do the opposite. For example, a promise to end poverty means you will not make a tax on being poor.
That digression is because, after the failed attempts to pass laws (which made history by being the first ever government bills to not get first reading) the Liberals introduced a throne speech which included 24 measures which violated their platform, or were not a part of their platform at all. Much of the Throne Speech was plagiarised from the New Democratic Party and Green Party campaign platforms. Some of the elements had been ridiculed by Christie Clark and her Minister of Finance Mike deJong during the election. The party violated its contract with the people who voted for it.
Now it is bad enough to lose the election and refuse to step aside, but instead use every trick in the book to stay in power as long as you can. But to try to pretend you are the party that won, by stealing their ideas and saying you want to make them a part of your law and budget – when you have 16 years of doing exactly the opposite – must mean you think very little of the voters’ intellect. However, this is nothing compared to what they did to their own party members. Because they put this forward in the Throne Speech the Liberals cannot, for this Parliament, oppose these same measures if brought forward by the NDP or the Greens. I would describe this as an own-goal of biblical proportions.
This was such a stinker that only about half the Liberal party chose to show up for the debates on the Throne Speech. Of course it was a foregone conclusion that the debates would not actually happen; John Horgan introduced a movement to skip the waste of time, but again the BC Liberals insisted on dragging out the process as slowly and lengthily and expensively as they could. And so tomorrow, only a few minutes away here on the Pacific coast, the next element of the overly-dramatic and silly death throes of the Christy Clark government will begin – she will finally face a vote of no-confidence.
But I think she believes she still has a trick to play.
Think about this: Christy Clark’s tenure has seen a change in response to FOIA requests – put simply the provincial government has been found in violation of the Federal law regarding freedom of information. It is my opinion that Clark has been overseeing a purge of government records, data stores, and so on, because several of the scandals may rise to criminal acts. The purge of records may also rise to criminal violations.
And I think it is possible Christy Clark has already received assurance from Stephen Harper’s appointed Lt. Governor[A] that the NDP-Greens will not be allowed to form government.
And that would be quite a trick.