Lieutenant-governor invites Horgan to take over, rejects another election

NDP Leader John Horgan will be the next premier of B.C. after the Liberal government led by Christy Clark was defeated in a confidence vote in the legislature late Thursday afternoon.

Lt.-Gov. Judith Guichon issued a statement, following a meeting with Horgan, confirming that she asked him to form a government and will accept Clark’s resignation.

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Guichon said Horgan had assured her that he can form a government that will have the confidence of the house after 16 years of Liberal rule.

Horgan emerged from Government House to the chants of “NDP, NDP” from assembled supporters.

“I look forward to working harder than I’ve ever worked before to make sure that this great province continues to grow,” he said.

“We want to make sure that the services people count on are there for them when they need it.

“We want to make sure, most importantly, that we continue to grow as a dynamic, diverse province, the envy of Canada, on the 150th birthday of Canada.

“It’s truly an honour to stand before you today and say that tomorrow I’ll begin putting together a government that will make British Columbia proud.”

Horgan acknowledged that the seven weeks since the May 9 election have been a “roller-coaster” for everyone.

No party won a majority of seats in the election. But the 41 NDP MLAs and three Greens signed an accord to work together on a range of issues and use their majority of votes to defeat the 43 Liberals on a confidence vote at the earliest opportunity.

They used that advantage Thursday to overthrow Clark in a 44-42 confidence vote on the throne speech. Speaker Steve Thomson, a Liberal MLA, only votes in the event of a tie.

NDP MLAs applauded, cheered and hugged one another following the vote, while Clark and her ministers returned to her office down a hallway lined with applauding staff members.

Clark then headed to Government House to meet with Guichon, who had the option of calling an election or asking Horgan to form a minority government with the backing of the Greens.

Clark signalled Wednesday that she would leave the decision up to Guichon, and offer advice only if asked.

But Clark said late Thursday that Guichon made clear that Clark had to either ask for the house to be dissolved and an election called, or recommend that Horgan be given a chance to govern.

Clark said she chose the first option for fear the NDP-Green alliance will need to bend “the rules of democracy” in order to make their government work.

But Guichon decided to ask Horgan to take over.

Thomson resigned as Speaker immediately after the government fell. The Liberals have questioned the stability of the NDP-Green alliance if they have to find a replacement from within their ranks.

That will leave the government and Opposition sides of the house with 43 seats apiece and require the Speaker to break ties — a situation the Liberals say is unworkable.

“I told her that, and I talked to her about that, and when it became clear that I needed to ask for dissolution — which she made very clear that I only had two choices — I did ask for dissolution,” Clark said.

“Now, she hasn’t granted that request. She’s chosen another path and … I suppose she’ll be able to talk to you about why she made that decision. I don’t know why, but she did and I certainly accept that result.”

Clark offered “true, sincere congratulations” to Horgan and wished him and B.C. Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver the best in the coming years.

“Over the last six years I have learned to love British Columbia even more than I did before,” she told reporters.

“I’m so grateful for the job.”

She said Horgan will inherit the best balanced books in the country. “I hope he can find a way to preserve that for the province, because it’s so important for people who want to work.”

After meeting with Clark, Guichon summoned Horgan to Government House.

“She wanted to make sure … that the continuity was going to be there and the systems and structures that we hold so dear here in British Columbia were going to be in good hands,” he said. “I assured her that I would do my level best to make sure that continuity continues.”

Horgan said one of his first priorities will be naming a cabinet so that the government can get moving on key issues such as the drug overdose crisis, education and the softwood lumber dispute with the United States.

Weaver said he was thrilled by the developments.

“It’s been seven weeks since we had the election,” he said.

“It’s actually been a month to the day since we signed our accord with the B.C. NDP to provide stability through a confidence and supply agreement.

“The premier’s been delaying and delaying and delaying not wishing to test confidence. We’ve said all along that we will support this agreement, this is our word, so I’m excited that we’re going to do that.”

lkines@timescolonist.com

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“It’s a good day for B.C.,” University of Victoria political scientist Michael Prince said Thursday night. “This is a peaceful transition. We saw peace, order and good government in action today.

“At the end of the day, we followed a conventional constitutional path. The lieutenant-governor carefully gave Christy Clark an opportunity to make her case. I thought that timing of space between the meeting and the next meeting with Horgan was important to establish the independence of the lieutenant-governor.

“When you saw Christy Clark leave, you saw a resigned politician and a resigned premier. She’d lost office.”

Prince said the enormity of the job and the office has now dawned on Horgan.

“There’s that keenness, too. The way he talked about education, softwood lumber, fentanyl, drug prices. He’s going to roll up his sleeves and get right into it tomorrow. He’ll hit the road running.”

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Update, 8:20 p.m.: Christy Clark has offered her resignation as premier and NDP Leader John Horgan has been asked to form government.

B.C.’s minority Liberal government was defeated Thursday in a non-confidence vote in the legislature, setting the stage for the NDP to govern or for another election.

Horgan was greeted by chants of “NDP, NDP” as he walked up the steps of Government House, but he gave no indication whether he will be the province’s next premier.

“I was pleased to get the call,” he said. “I have no expectations.”

A tweet sent from his account after he entered Government House said: "Today British Columbians finally have the change they voted for. Thank you to everyone who got us here. The hard work starts now."

Liberal Leader Christy Clark met with Guichon earlier in the evening.

“The lieutenant-governor and I had a very good long conversation as you can guess, given the amount of time we were there. She has now retired to make her decision and I’m going to wait and respect her time to do that,” Clark said as she left Government House.

Later, Clark confirmed that Guichon has asked her to formally offer advice, and that she recommended dissolving the house.

The alliance of B.C. NDP and B.C. Green Party MLAs defeated the Liberals 44-42 in a vote on the throne speech at about 5:25 p.m. Speaker Steve Thomson, a Liberal MLA, only votes in the event of a tie. After the vote, Thomson resigned as Speaker.

NDP MLAs applauded, cheered and hugged one another following the vote, while Clark and her ministers headed to her office down a hallway lined with applauding staff members.

0629-Christy Clark_7.jpg
Premier Christy Clark leaves the legislative assembly following the confidence vote at B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, June 29, 2017. - CHAD HIPOLITO

Guichon must now decide whether to call another election or ask NDP Leader John Horgan to form a minority government and seek the confidence of the house.

Horgan immediately issued a statement on Twitter saying: “Today’s vote is a step towards a new government that will put people first. We’re ready to work hard for the people of British Columbia.”

No party won a majority of seats in the May 9 provincial election (see the final results here). But the 41 NDP MLAs and three Greens signed an accord to work together on a range of issues and use their majority of votes to defeat the Liberals on a confidence vote at the earliest opportunity.

Clark signalled Wednesday that she would leave the decision on whether to call an election up to Guichon.

But she said that, if asked, she will advise Guichon that the legislature isn’t working under the Liberals and that there’s no evidence it will work under an NDP government backed by the Greens.

Clark denied that providing that opinion amounts to the same thing as advising Guichon to call an election.

“It will be her decision about whether or not she makes that call,” Clark said. “But, if she asks me a question about what I think, I’m not going to lie about what I saw going on in this place this week.”

A full public gallery looked on as Clark rose in the house at 4:50 p.m. to defend the throne speech, which borrowed heavily from the NDP and Green campaign platforms.

“When we go into political combat, we all acknowledge that we sometimes spend so much energy fighting with one another in here that it’s hard to listen to what British Columbians want,” she said. “And the throne speech is an answer to that; it’s an answer to what voters told us on May 9.

“It’s an acknowledgment — a sincere acknowledgment — that we didn’t get it all right. It is an expression of renewed priorities, based on what voters told us, including that they want us to work across party lines with one another.”

Clark received a standing ovation from Liberal MLAs at the end of her speech before the vote was called.

The Liberals’ looming defeat led to a combative question period, in which Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver sparred with Clark over the comments she made Wednesday.

Weaver, MLA for Oak Bay-Gordon Head, accused the Liberals of delaying the confidence vote for weeks and ignoring the fact that a majority of MLAs are ready to work together.

“Instead, her government has chosen to play political games that are designed to undermine co-operation and stability,” he said. “Let me clear, stability does not depend on this premier holding onto power.

“The Greens stand ready to work with all parties once the government has demonstrated it has confidence of the house.”

Weaver’s comments prompted jeering from the Liberal side of the house. Clark then attacked Weaver for voting against a Liberal campaign finance reform bill earlier this week.

“Now, that member stands up and says he’s willing to work with anybody,” she said. “Nobody believes you anymore.”

Clark later had to withdraw a remark in which she accused Weaver of not telling the truth.

Meanwhile, Carole James, NDP MLA for Victoria-Beacon Hill, criticized Clark for trying to trigger an election when people are waiting for improved child-care services.

“Yesterday, we saw one more example in a long list of shameful tactics by the B.C. Liberals to try and hang on to power,” James said. “We heard the premier claim that she won’t ask for a new election, but she’d be happy to recommend one if anybody asked her opinion. While the premier plays games, real people need help.”

Clark countered that people could get those services if the Greens and NDP supported the throne speech and its promise of an additional $1 billion for child care and early education programs.

“If that members wants to provide stability and wants to provide a plan for the people on whose behalf she’s speaking today, she should make sure that the throne speech passes,” she said.

lkines@timescolonist.com

— With a file from The Canadian Press

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