NDP, Greens accuse Liberals of delays, ‘mischief’

The NDP and Greens accused B.C. Liberal Premier Christy Clark of resorting to delaying tactics and “mischief” in a desperate attempt to hang onto power.

B.C. NDP Leader John Horgan and B.C. Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver held a joint news conference in Victoria on Wednesday to attack Clark and the Liberals for waiting too long to recall the legislature and playing games with the appointment of a Speaker.

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“They’re dragging this out to the last possible minute because they want to sow discontent between Andrew and I and our colleagues,” Horgan said. “And it’s not going to work.”

Weaver noted that a minority government in the United Kingdom has recalled the House of Commons and elected a Speaker less than a week after a general election.

British Columbians, meanwhile, will have waited more than six weeks since the May 9 election before the legislature returns on June 22, he said.

“The premier has said time and time again that she wants us to work together, that she’s heard the message of the people of British Columbia,” he said.

“Yet what do we see? Delay, distraction, delay.”

The NDP and Greens have signed a deal to topple the Liberals in a confidence vote shortly after the legislature returns.

But the Liberals have in recent days sought to portray the NDP-Green alliance as unworkable, highlighting its slim 44-43 seat majority and the need for the legislature to appoint a Speaker.

Clark said this week that the Liberals will put forward someone for the job, but only until her government falls. Once that happens, it will be up to the next government to find a replacement from within its own ranks, she said.

If that happens, the NDP-Green alliance and the Opposition Liberals will have 43 seats apiece and the Speaker might need to break tie votes.

Weaver and Horgan argued Wednesday that Clark has no business influencing who will stand for the non-partisan post or when they should step down.

They said the Speaker is supposed to serve a four-year term once elected by the legislature and that there are precedents in other parliaments for the Speaker coming from the opposition benches.

“Should Ms. Clark put forward someone with an instruction to resign after the government is defeated, that’s a problem,” Horgan said. “Not a constitutional problem; I would say a problem of character and ethics.”

Attorney General Andrew Wilkinson said the controversy raises questions about the viability of an NDP minority government supported by the Greens.

“It’s clear that a stable government does not rely upon floor-crossers and rule changes and other parties for stability,” he said. “If the Greens and the NDP are purporting to be able to provide a stable government for British Columbians, then they have to do it from within their own resources.”

Wilkinson also dismissed Weaver’s comparisons to the United Kingdom election, noting that the results were much closer in B.C., where the Liberals took 43 seats, the NDP 41 and the Greens three.

The tight margins meant the parties had to wait two weeks for the results of riding recounts to see whether anyone had a majority.

The Greens then began negotiating with the other two parties before deciding to help the NDP defeat the Liberals.

“All of those things are driven by the arithmetic of the seat count, which means that it’s not quite as easy as putting together a minority government in the U.K., where they have abundant experience with this and have done it many times,” Wilkinson said.

lkines@timescolonist.com

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