Following British Columbia’s May 9 general election, a political bloc with the majority of votes and a majority of elected members became ready to form government. But, the defeated Premier declines to resign, as she should, and as she must.
By hanging on after defeat, Christy Clark disrespects voters and disregards the parliamentary system that governs us.
People of this province voted for change but Christy Clark wants more of the same. In staying on as Premier, Clark claims to be following advice of constitutional experts but, she names not one. Meanwhile, experts are clear that another course is appropriate.
SFU political scientist Andrew Heard specializes in “the rules and institutions of government.” Before Canada’s 2015 federal election, Professor Heard discussed what must happen when no single party wins a majority of seats:
Let’s say a party that was in second place had an agreement with a party in third or fourth place. Together they had the majority of seats — that to me, fulfills the main criteria for our system of government: if you have a majority, then you have the authority to govern. A leader who finishes first, who clearly does not have the support of the majority … to me, doesn’t have an automatic right.
Under the Westminster system, operations of parliament are largely governed by conventions but these impose clear cut obligations on political actors. In 2010, Britain’s new Conservative Prime Minister, with participation of the previous Labour government, select committees and constitutional experts, developed an authoritative guide to parliamentary procedures. It is relevant to Canadian parliaments.
The Cabinet Manual, A guide to laws, conventions and rules on the operation of government (United Kingdom, 2011):
2.09 … In modern times the convention has been that the Sovereign should not be drawn into party politics, and if there is doubt it is the responsibility of those involved in the political process, and in particular the parties represented in Parliament, to seek to determine and communicate clearly to the Sovereign who is best placed to be able to command the confidence of the House of Commons. As the Crown’s principal adviser this responsibility falls especially on the incumbent Prime Minister, who at the time of his or her resignation may also be asked by the Sovereign for a recommendation on who can best command the confidence of the House of Commons in his or her place.
2.19 …The Prime Minister is expected to resign where it is clear that he or she does not have the confidence of the House of Commons and that an alternative government does have the confidence.
We know one reason that Liberals cling to office. It’s highly profitable for the party.
Vancouver Sun journalist Daphne Bramham reported that nearly $1 million in contributions were deposited into the B.C. Liberal party’s bank account just three days after the May 9 election. Bob Mackin of theBreaker.news calculated that Liberals raised $21.3 million in less than 17 months after January 2016.
But, what the Liberal Party deposits in the “wild west” of political fundraising is small change compared to what their corporate sponsors gain. Reminding us of the “hosing” taxpayers took on Coquitlam land sales, future NDP cabinet minister David Eby noted that a secret untendered sale of False Creek development land to big BC Liberal donors is underway.
Each month of continued Liberal rule ensures that the growing list of private power producers banks $120 million for electricity that must be resold by BC Hydro at a fraction of cost, mining companies are excused from paying millions for power consumed and natural gas producers gain $75 million in additional subsidies. In addition, Rich Coleman’s friends continue to enjoy public assistance to build luxury housing and the Liberal patronage network stays in place, collecting rewards for imposing the party’s political will.
Kinder Morgan’s plans to move uncleanable bitumen through waters of Burrard Inlet and the Salish Sea remain unchallenged and the independent review of Site C is unstarted.
On the other hand, bridge tolls continue unchanged and moves toward a $15 minimum wage and $10 a day childcare are postponed. Also deferred are improvements in social welfare benefits for the province’s neediest citizens and urgently needed changes to the Ministry of Children and Family Development are ignored. A lower mainland transportation strategy that respects regional priorities is delayed and further millions are wasted on preparing the Massey Tunnel replacement bridge.
These items were among the issues in our recent election. John Horgan’s NDP and Andrew Weaver’s Greens shared common approaches on most subjects while Liberals held opposite positions.
Forty-two percent more votes were marked for the two main opposition parties on May 9 than for the Liberals, clear evidence that BC citizens want a new direction by government. That will come under Premier Horgan but delay is inexcusable.
The latest of Martyn Brown’s insightful pieces in the Georgia Straight offered Andrew Weaver’s explanation of why the NDP/Green alliance was formed:
…With the B.C. NDP, I find a partner that will actually position British Columbia in the new economy, create distributed jobs, from north to south and east to west, in a bottom-up fashion, putting people first. And that, ultimately, in the framework of climate leadership brought the B.C. Greens here today, to work with the B.C. NDP…
Clark and her colleagues ignore political reality and by frustrating the will of citizens, they put at risk the continued viability of the Liberal Party in BC. Justin Trudeau and his 17 British Columbia MPs ought to take note.