Les Leyne: Five days that shook the rockpile

Les Leyne mugshot genericA week so big it deserves to be covered twice: Monday: Two weeks of cloudy uncertainty about what the Green Party is going to do cleared up about 1 p.m. with a media advisory: There was going to be a “significant announcement” in an hour. And Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver and NDP Leader John Horgan would make it. The guessing game was over.

They showed up grinning in front of the empty assembly hall and plighted their troth. Weaver’s three-person caucus would back Horgan’s 41 incoming MLAs on confidence motions. That would make 44 votes, to the B.C. Liberals’ 43, spelling doom for Premier Christy Clark’s government.

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Was it my imagination, or did the rockpile tremble slightly as the import of the news sunk in? The deal would make Horgan, who was notified by Weaver of the decision that morning, the premier. After 16 years of Liberal government, its future looked to be measured in days or weeks. Horgan said he drove to work with an alarmingly big smile on his face.

Clark, the odd woman out, said her side had made every effort to reach a deal with the Greens, and now she had a responsibility to consider her next steps carefully.

Tuesday: Horgan walked into a morning meeting of the NDP caucus, which is six MLAs bigger than it was before the election, and has 15 new members. They were in an excited, congratulatory mood.

“I could not tell you how happy I am to be here today,” he said.

Horgan was hopeful at that point that he’d be able to form a government “in a few short days.”

A few hours later, officials from the Green and NDP caucuses briefed reporters on the 10-page “confidence and supply agreement” that binds the two parties. As that was underway, Clark made her next move.

Faced with accepting the inevitable and giving up, or getting defeated on the floor of the house, she chose the house. She said she’d “test the confidence of the house” and acknowledged she already knows what the outcome will be.

If her government falls, it will be in the legislature for all to see. It was the right choice, as both her opponents conceded.

Later, the agreement was unveiled in front of the massed ranks of the NDP and Green caucuses. Greens conceded some policy points, but get a remarkable degree of day-to-day access and influence in an NDP government.

Wednesday: Horgan and Weaver delivered the agreement to Government House, because if a government falls, the lieutenant-governor must have something on paper showing who can control the legislature, if it comes down to a choice of calling an election or inviting another party to take over.

It was an awkward moment all around. Reporters were barred from the grounds by Government House, then let in. No questions were allowed, but were asked anyway. The lieutenant-governor wasn’t even there. Weaver and Horgan gave the document to an aide and drove off together. #photo-opfail. Some U.S. tourists were agog at how politicians can wander around seeking to take over a government, with zero security.

Thursday: There are dozens of questions still outstanding. A big one is: Who will be Speaker? The house is frozen until there is one. It has to be an MLA. But the numbers game makes it a net loss if anyone runs. If no one runs, there’s potential for another election.

Also up for discussion is the fate of the Site C dam under construction on the Peace River. Greens wanted it abandoned, the NDP wants it referred to the utilities commission for a quick review. That’s what prevailed in the agreement.

Then, in mid-afternoon, a Peace River anti-dam group released a letter Horgan had copied to them. It was written to B.C. Hydro, warning it not to expropriate or sign any more major contracts until it’s decided who’s running the show.

It was an important development on a major issue, but curiously, the letter wasn’t released publicly by his office.

Friday: Behind the scenes work continues on three different transitions involving hundreds of people. The ins are headed out. The outs are headed in. And a sideline trio are planning to get in the game in a big way. It will take the rest of this month to sort it all out.

lleyne@timescolonist.com

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