Searching for confidence in Victoria

Without confidence in the Legislature, there can be no ruling government

An ancient Mayan calendar predicted that the world would end on Dec. 22, 2012 through some unnamed calamity that would be apocalyptic in nature.

Five years later, the world is still here, despite the hilarious hand-wringing that occurred before that particular date passed.

However, judging from some of the reactions to last week’s power-sharing agreement between the BC NDP and the BC Greens, one would think that the end of the world was nigh.

First, lets establish the background.

On May 9th, BC held it’s 41st general election that elected candidates in 87 ridings across the province. Once the dust settled, the results showed that the BC Liberals captured 43 seats, the BC NDP took 41 seats, while the BC Greens claimed 3 seats.

Guess the BC Liberals are back to governing, right?


In order to pass legislation, there needs to be a 50 per cent majority in the Legislature, meaning that the Liberals would need 44 votes — one shy of their election total — to get a bill through.

That’s a problem, and it strikes to the heart of the developments between the two opposition parties.

The only thing that matters in the Legislature is confidence.

If the governing party cannot pass legislation that carries a confidence vote, then there is no confidence in the Legislature.

In this case, Lieutenant Governor Judith Guichon will approach BC Liberal leader Christy Clark for the first opportunity for form government. The Liberals will sit for a throne speech — action that carries a confidence vote, and the NDP/Green alliance will likely vote it down.

No confidence.

So, if there is no confidence in the governing Liberal party, what happens?

One might be inclined to think it would trigger an election, however, Guichon is obliged to approach other party leaders to see if they can form a government that can pass confidence votes.

Again, in this case, the NDP and the Greens have hammered out an agreement that stipulates the Greens will lend their three-member caucus support to the 41-member NDP, therefore reaching the 44 seats needed for majority support for confidence votes.

They’ll likely choose a Speaker of the House from their ranks, subtracting their number of MLAs to 43, however, the speaker can vote to break ties.

But that’s undemocratic! Nobody voted for an NDP-Green alliance!

That doesn’t matter, because all that matters is confidence in the Legislature.

There were 87 elections on May 9 that sent 87 representatives to Victoria. From there, it’s up to the Lieutenant Governor to approach the party who won the most seats to form government, even if it’s a minority.

But if that minority can’t govern, the Lieutenant Governor has to at least try to see if any other party (or parties) can govern before dissolving the Legislature and calling an election.

In this case, there just so happens to be a situation where confidence in the Legislature can be met through the agreement between the NDP and Greens.

In terms of how the electorate voted, look at the numbers.

Sure, the BC Liberals got the most seats, which is the only thing that matters when it comes to gaining power in the Legislature. But from a percentage standpoint, the results paint a different picture.

Provincially, just under two million votes were cast, which accounts for 61.5 per cent of registered voters.

Looking into the percentages of the two million ballots cast — 40 per cent went to the BC Liberals, 40 per cent went to the NDP, 17 per cent went to the Greens, while the remaining three per cent are classified as ‘other’.

So from that perspective, no one has a majority or can claim to have a mandate to govern.

However, combining the vote between the NDP and the Greens at 57 per cent gives a modicum of legitimacy to the agreement. It’s less of an endorsement of the deal between the two parties and more of a rejection of the BC Liberals, who have held the government reins for the last 17 years.

All this being said, even though the alliance between the two is fresh, it will be tested in the coming months and the Greens run the risk of of being painted in a darker shade of orange, which could hurt them in future elections.

And if this alliance fails then BC voters will be heading back to the polls.

Anyone want to place their bets?

Cranbrook Daily Townsman

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