B.C. Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver revealed Monday that his party has agreed to work with the NDP to form a minority provincial government and bring down Liberal Premier Christy Clark.
In a news conference with NDP Leader John Horgan at the B.C. legislature, Weaver said the deal follows intense negotiations with both the NDP and the Liberals.
“In the end, we had to make a difficult decision, a decision that we felt was in the best interest of British Columbia today,” he said. “And that decision was for the B.C. Greens to work with the B.C. NDP to provide a stable minority government over the four-year term of this next session.”
Horgan called it a historic day for the province.
“I am very excited about the prospects of delivering to the people of British Columbia what they voted for on May 9 and that was change,” he said. “We are going to be able to give that change as a result of the agreement reached between the B.C. Green caucus and the B.C. NDP caucus.”
A pact between the two parties does not necessarily mean they will form government immediately.
Clark remains the premier and could either resign or take first crack at delivering a throne speech in the legislature to see if it has the confidence of the house. If the speech is defeated, Lt.-Gov. Judith Guichon could call an election or, more likely, offer the NDP an opportunity to form a government with the support of the Greens.
The Liberals have 43 seats to 41 for the NDP and three for the Greens. The NDP-Green pact would give them a razor-thin majority with 44 seats. If the Speaker is selected from the government side, he or she would have to break any tie votes.
Clark did not speak to the media on Monday, but said in a statement that she is considering her next move.
“In recent days, we have made every effort to reach a governing agreement, while standing firm on our core beliefs,” she said. “It’s vitally important that British Columbians see the specific details of the agreement announced today by the B.C. NDP and Green Party leaders, which could have far-reaching consequences for our province’s future.
“As the incumbent government, and the party with the most seats in the legislature, we have a responsibility to carefully consider our next steps. I will consult on those steps with the newly elected B.C. Liberal caucus, and have more to say tomorrow.”
Horgan said the NDP and Greens will inform Guichon of their deal in the next few days.
“The premier will have some choices to make without any doubt,” he said. “The agreement that’s been reached between the Green caucus and the B.C. NDP caucus demonstrates that we have the majority support of members in the legislature.”
Horgan said the NDP would run the government with support from the Greens on confidence and budgetary issues; being defeated on such issues can cause a government to fall.
Weaver said no Green MLAs would be in the cabinet. “We specifically did not ask for there to be a coalition,” he said. “We wanted to maintain a minority situation to show British Columbians that it can work.”
Added Horgan: “The absorbing of the Green caucus was not an agenda item; in fact, it was specifically not an agenda item.”
Weaver said his three-member caucus has already endorsed the deal, while the NDP caucus is expected to ratify the agreement at a meeting in Victoria today. Details of the agreement will be released once it’s approved.
“I don’t want to leave you hanging,” Horgan said. “We have had a preliminary discussion with our caucus colleagues, but they were all scheduled to be in town tomorrow. They’re going to get a detailed look at the document at that time. I have every confidence that there’s going to be unanimous support from our team.”
As for what happens next, Michael Prince, Lansdowne professor of social policy at the University of Victoria, said the most conventional constitutional route would be for Clark to remain premier, appoint a cabinet and present a throne speech in the legislature within 90 days.
Prince said it would be “highly irregular” for Guichon to go right to Horgan and ask him to form government now.
“Christy Clark is the incumbent, she is the premier, she did win the plurality of seats with 43, so I mean, it’s her responsibility, as she said in her statement last week, to make government work,” he said.
Prince said it’s possible, but unlikely, that Clark would resign now, rather than take a shot at forming government.
“Some of her own instincts and some of her advisers would say: ‘Look, it’s not over till it’s over and you’re still in the driver’s seat, you’re still in the role. You did win a few more votes in the popular vote, you did win more seats. Give it a go and who knows, between now and September, what can happen in terms of the honeymoon period between the Greens and the NDP?’ ”