B.C. legislature returns on June 22; Liberals face defeat

British Columbians are getting closer to finding out whether the Liberal government will survive or get replaced by an NDP minority government backed by the Greens.

Premier Christy Clark, whose party failed to win a majority of seats in the May 9 provincial election, has recalled the legislature for June 22 to test the confidence of the house in her government.

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Clark said last week that she fully expects to go down in defeat at the hands of the NDP and Greens.

The Liberals have 43 seats to 41 for the NDP and three for the B.C. Green Party. The NDP and Greens signed an accord last week giving them a slim 44-seat majority in the 87-seat legislature.

Government House Leader Mike de Jong said in a statement Wednesday that the first order of business in the new parliament will be to elect a Speaker.

“After which, and in the aftermath of a very close election, the government will seek to determine if it continues to enjoy the confidence of the house,” he said.

The election of a Speaker could be contentious, since a single vote separates the Liberals from the NDP-Green alliance and neither side wants to give up one of its MLAs to oversee the house.

If the two sides reach agreement, however, the Liberals could introduce a throne speech that same day, setting the stage for a confidence vote within days.

NDP Leader John Horgan issued a statement chastising Clark for taking so long to recall the house.

“By the time Christy Clark finally gets to work on June 22, it will be more than six weeks since British Columbians voted overwhelmingly to replace her,” he said.

“I’m surprised it’s taken Christy Clark this long, but I’m hopeful she will agree to test the confidence of the house immediately, so British Columbians get the new government they voted for.”

Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver told reporters at the B.C. legislature that he’s anxious to get back to work.

“This long period of delay has led to uncertainty that we don’t really need,” he said. “So it’s nice to get it forward now and actually get into the legislature to show the people that they don’t have to worry. Minority governments can work. We’ll ensure that they work and we’re not here to play partisan politics.”

Weaver was sworn in as the MLA for Oak Bay-Gordon Head at the legislature, along with fellow Green MLAs Sonia Furstenau from the Cowichan Valley and Adam Olsen from Saanich North and the Islands.

The trio represent the first ever B.C. Green caucus. Craig James, clerk of the legislative assembly, noted that they also reflect the changing face of the B.C. legislature.

Furstenau is one of 34 females MLAs representing 39 per cent of the elected members — the highest level in any legislature in Canada and one of the highest in the Commonwealth, James said.

Olsen, a member of the Tsartlip First Nation, will join three other indigenous MLAs in the chamber — “a record for our province,” James said.

Furstenau promised more changes to come.

“I think what we’re going to bring, as the Green Party, is a new era of collaboration, of co-operation, of politics done with service to the people of B.C. put first and foremost, and leaving behind the kind of partisan landscape that has marred B.C. politics for so long,” she said.

Olsen called it a humbling experience to be the first person from the WSANEC territory elected to the legislature.

“I think to see more and more indigenous people taking a seat in the legislature, we’re going to get a diversity of opinions,” he said. “We’re going to get a diversity of ideas. I think it’s a way — and a very important way — for us to represent the diversity of this province.”

B.C. Liberal MLAs are scheduled to be sworn in Thursday morning, followed by NDP MLAs in the afternoon.

lkines@timescolonist.com

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