Yesterday I rose in the Legislature to speak in favour of Bill 5 Constitution Amendment Act 2017. This Bill introduces three main changes to the Constitution Act and consequential amendments to the Elections Act. It extends official party status to parties with two or more elected members, allows for acting ministers to be appointed in the case of death of any minister, and changes the fixed election date to October.
Below I reproduce the text and video of my speech.
A. Weaver: Thank you to my colleagues.
I rise to take my place in the debate on Bill 5, the Constitution Amendment Act — a bill so complex, so complicated, that the member from Vancouver-Quilchena felt the need to get a detailed briefing and analysis of it, delaying our discussing of this at second reading until this date.
This bill does three things. It amends the definition of leader of a recognized political party, in a matter analogous to what the B.C. Liberals did in the July session that we had here. It adds circumstances when acting ministers may be appointed from the members of executive council. For example, if there’s a tragic death within someone in cabinet. And it amends the fixed election dates.
Now, it’s just truly remarkable to hear the righteous indignation of members opposite speaking against this bill, when they produced something almost identical in the summer. They claimed that there was no consultation. They claimed there was no consultation. But both election platforms…. Both the B.C. NDP and the B.C. Greens campaigned on this.
Why did we campaign on it? Well, I suspect the B.C. Liberals wished they had campaigned on it, because we wouldn’t have been in the awkward situation of suddenly discovering a $2.8 billion surplus because of reckless fiscal mismanagement by a previous government.
What government would project a several hundred million dollar surplus and end up with $2.8 billion surplus, all the while taking mean-spirited policies — taking this mean-spirited position — and not helping those people in our province who need that help most.
Had we had a fall election date, the February budget would have been passed. It would have been passed, and we would have had year-end statements.
We would know what the fiscal situation would be. We wouldn’t have been in this panic trying to pass a supply act because of stalling by a government that knew it didn’t have the confidence of this House. It knew it didn’t have the confidence of this House, so it stalled and tried to rush a supply act. Changing the election date to October is a good change, one that we support in its entirety.
Again, earlier today we had another example of how this government proposes to work with others to represent British Columbians. We saw a cynical, petty statement by the member for Abbotsford South — I think it was Abbotsford South or the relevant Abbotsford riding — who stood up and sought a ruling from you, hon. Speaker, with respect to the ability of members to vote on this. It’s remarkable that he would do that. It was nothing more than a petty, cynical ploy that his own caucus didn’t know he was going to do.
This is a member who wants to lead a party, yet would do something like that without informing his caucus and expect that there would be goodwill from the Green Party members in supporting amendments that they might bring forward on bills. It’s disingenuous at its very worst. I look forward to seeing how members opposite react as this member moves forward in a leadership bid — one who doesn’t actually consult with colleagues. I found it quite sad, particularly since Standing Order 18 is very clear: “No member is entitled to vote, etc….” There are clear cases here. In fact, this Legislature, in 2007, was required by law to vote on its own compensation. Again, petty, and it’s exactly why this government needed to be put in a time-out.
Coming back to the importance of party status, let’s go back to 2001. There are many precedents here. In 2001, the B.C. Liberals won a majority with 77 seats. There were two B.C. NDP seats. In another mean-spirited fashion — again, a mean-spirited fashion that has even been suggested by a former chief of staff that it was mean-spirited — the B.C. NDP did not have official party status. They received 21.5 percent of the vote — 343,156 votes, two seats, no official party status. No official opposition.
I remember watching the Legislature at that time. It’s kind of the thing we do. I remember watching Liberal MLAs stand up and ask questions like: “Hon. Speaker, my question, through you to the minister, is this: how good are our policies?” This is the type of rhetoric we heard back then. Back in 2001….
A. Weaver: The member opposite is heckling and suggesting that our questions are softball. I don’t know who writes their questions. Their questions are an embarrassment. Their questions, filled with — I love to say this again — righteous indignation, sanctimoniously portraying themselves as victims of democracy, as they ask and criticize government for doing exactly what they’ve been doing for 16 years. It’s just ironic having to sit here. It’s quite enjoyable to see them….
A. Weaver: Thank you, hon. Speaker.
In 2001, coming back there, the B.C. Green Party at the time — I was not a member of any political party then: 197,231 votes, 12.39 percent of the population. That’s zero seats, and that’s fair enough. That was the system we had. But take a look at the votes per seat back in 2001. When you take the number of seats, divided by the number of votes, each one of those NDP seats represented 171,578 votes. Whereas to win a Liberal seat, all you needed was 11,908 votes.
The NDP were denied official party status, cynically and in a mean-spirited fashion, even though they received 343,156 votes, and each of those two MLAs then represented 171,578 votes. That’s shameful. It’s shameful for democracy, and it’s shameful that that was done. The Reform Party had status back in the day with a number of members.
Let’s go to 2017. Here’s another example. In 2017, the recent election we just had, the B.C. NDP received 795,106 votes at 40.28 percent and 41 seats. The B.C. Liberals had 796,772 votes or 40.36 percent, representing 43 seats. And the B.C. Greens had 332,387 votes, 16.84 percent with three seats.
Now, let’s have a look.
A. Weaver: The member for Penticton needs to be careful, because we ran a candidate who got 19 percent in his riding, and he watches.
A. Weaver: She did lose, but just watch the next election. The member from Parksville-Qualicum beside him better be careful too, because we know that we had polling data, and it was very close there until the last week.
[Mr. Speaker in the chair.]
They’re very chirpy. Very, very chirpy. They don’t like being put in this time-out. It’s like the boisterous children who were misbehaving. You put them in time-out, and you say: “Take it easy, there.” But they can’t, so they need to be kept there for 4½ years, because they need to rediscover who they are. They need to rediscover what they stand for. Nobody in British Columbia knows. They don’t know what this party stands for.
Everybody and his dog is running for leadership of this party. Nobody knows who’s going to be leader. Nobody knows who’s running the show. By listening to question period, they need to discover who they are.
Again, the righteous indignation portrayed as they hurl abuse at the Minister of Transportation for not bringing in ride-sharing. It’s just remarkable to sit here and listen, knowing full well that they had seven years to do it but they didn’t. In fact, the Minister of Transportation at the time told British Columbians he was going to but got soundly smacked down by, perhaps the Premier’s office, perhaps the Minister of Finance then, and they back-pedalled on it. So again, there is no credibility there.
There’s no credibility, which again, coming back to the bill, is why it’s so important to actually give the official, official opposition party status here in the B.C. Legislature.
Coming back to the votes per seat….
A. Weaver: The member for Penticton is chuckling. I did enjoy being with the member for Penticton on the Finance Committee. We had some fun there. I take it in good spirit with the member for Penticton.
Coming back to the votes per seat in 2013. Again, this is important. To win a B.C. NDP seat, given the number of votes and the percentage there and the 41 seats that they won, you needed 19,393 votes. To win a B.C. Liberal seat, you needed 18,538 votes. Each B.C. Liberal over there represents 18,530 British Columbians who voted B.C. Liberal. Each B.C. NDP — see over here — represents 19,433 votes. Each B.C. Green vote represents 110,796 votes. Three MLAs, 332,387 votes.
Now, we know — based on the amount of e-mail we get, the calls we get from across the province — that British Columbians don’t believe we have an official opposition, because all they know what to do is play politics. They’re not raising issues. They’re with the game of politics — got you this, got you that, accuse you this. They have no ideas, they’re out of touch, and they’re navel-gazing as to the direction that they want to go.
We are acting, the three MLAs, as the conscience of British Columbia, holding this government to account while they navel-gaze, while they ask the pitiful questions in question period, while they abdicate their responsibility to offer solutions. And here we stand.
So obviously, it is not only fair. It is the right thing to do to recognize that the three B.C. Green MLAs are the political party. We ran as a political party. We got elected as a political party. In Prince Edward Island or in New Brunswick, one Green MLA was given party status. In British Columbia, three Reform MLAs — I think it was three — two NDP MLAs were not given party status.
Now, I would encourage members opposite who don’t know what they stand for, to actually get together and figure what groups of you stand for, and maybe we might see a B.C. conservative party emerge.
When the new leader of the B.C. conservative party — well the Liberals, they call themselves Liberals — will be Dianne Watts, it’ll be wonderful to see that party break into two, because that’s really what they are. Nobody knows what they stand for.
The party has been driven out of the Premier’s office for the last four years with MLAs not knowing what stands which. MLAs waking up listening to a throne speech after campaigning on the doorstep, saying “We can’t afford this. We can’t do that.” I mean, there are no morals. There are no principles. It’s lost touch. So, again, that’s why it’s so important that we come back to the fact that we get party status here in the B.C. Legislature.
One of the things in this bill that we haven’t touched upon yet is the allowing for the appointment of acting ministers in the case of a death of a member. I caution government that there isn’t a provision here. What happens if the entire cabinet were to die? That is not covered in this legislation.
It would be a tragedy, but there is a loophole there that we need to, perhaps, consider closing, because it’s only if one, or one or two, but not the entire cabinet. Heaven forbid there was an earthquake at 10:10 on Thursday, October the 19th, and the cabinet would go. So there’s a small change there.
Again, this is a very complex piece of legislation that required a detailed thorough analysis and briefing by the member for Vancouver-Quilchena, who found it so complex he needed the extra week to think about how he could understand it.
I mean, again, one could be somewhat cynical as to the delay of debating this bill, but I wouldn’t want to go there, of course. No, that wouldn’t be right.
There are other things in this bill. It’s such a complex bill. We’ve got the appointment of if someone dies. We’ve got the fall election date. Now members opposite are all in a fury, all in a kerfuffle about the fact that it’s October — 4½ years. It’s actually only four years, just in case they really care.
If the members opposite had actually got their act together and recognized they did not have confidence of the House, it would be 4½ years. It’s only four years, because we weren’t actually able to put this agreement together until the end of the summer — well, July — because we had to wait month after month, as the B.C. Liberals tried desperately to hang on to power.
And therein lies the key. For the B.C. Liberals, it is about power. It’s all about the game of politics, the quest for power, and the cynical aspects of politics. They’re not interested in good public policy. They’re not interested in that. They’re interested in power, whatever it takes, say whatever it takes, and that is what is so sad about this political party, and it’s why they need to be put in an extended time-out so this government gets a full four years.
A. Weaver: Oh, well that’s an interesting idea. The member — I do apologize, I forgot which riding — the member for Maple Ridge–Mission has suggested, I do believe that he has got something here, that the party opposite might be put in a time-out for 16 years instead of just the four years that they’re being put in. That might be….
A. Weaver: Oh they are so very, very chirpy today. You know, I don’t think that I need to belabour this….
A. Weaver: The member for Kelowna–Lake Country is applauding the arguments being raised here, the compelling nature of these arguments and thanking for an articulate representation of why Bill 5, Constitution Amendment Act needs to pass.
Obviously, we’ll be supporting it. We look forward to supporting it, and we thank the government for recognizing the importance of recognizing the third political party.
We do recognize the Liberals did offer this to us back in the spring, but we agree with the B.C. NDP, in this time, that it is important — if you run as a party you be recognized as a party. Ultimately, that’s what our democracy is all about.