Yesterday the Premier held a press conference in the rose garden, where she stated: “This isn’t a working Legislature, and I haven’t seen any evidence that it could work.” She further stated: “There’s no effort on the part of either opposition party to work together.”
Today in the Legislature I was up in Question Period. I took the opportunity to ask the Premier why she made these statement when the majority of members in this House stand ready and willing to work together.
Below I reproduce the video and text of the exchange. You’ll see in the exchange that the BC Liberals were much more feisty than usual. The Premier was also made to withdraw a comment she made.
A. Weaver: Yesterday the Premier held a press conference in the rose garden, where she stated: “This isn’t a working Legislature, and I haven’t seen any evidence that it could work.” She further stated: “There’s no effort on the part of either opposition party to work together.”
Hon. Speaker, she implied that because her government, the government under her leadership, has been unable to advance its agenda — frankly, our agenda — the only option is to subject British Columbia to another election. For weeks, the Premier has delayed a confidence vote that she knows she will lose. Instead, her government has chosen to play political games that are designed to undermine cooperation and stability.
Let me be clear. Stability does not depend on this Premier holding on to power. The Greens stand ready to work with all parties…
Mr. Speaker: Members, Members.
A. Weaver: …once the government has demonstrated that it has the confidence of the House.
Mr. Speaker: Member, one minute.
Members, the Chair will hear the question.
A. Weaver: My question to the Premier is this: can the Premier clarify why she made this statement when the majority of members in this House stand ready and willing to work together?
Mr. Speaker: Premier — through the Chair.
Hon. C. Clark: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
You know, that member campaigned hard in the election on saying that he was going to be different. Instead, what he’s done is decide to just be more of the same. That member campaigned in the election saying that he was going to be an independent voice in this Legislature, and instead what he’s done is decide to sit there and take orders from one of the major parties rather than making up his own mind.
That member said that he supported campaign finance reform and then refused to even look at it when it was proposed in this Legislature. And now that member stands up and says he’s willing to work with anybody. Nobody believes you anymore.
Mr. Speaker: The member has a supplemental.
A. Weaver: Thank you, hon. Speaker. It’s good to see the Premier acting like the Leader of the Official Opposition in response to my question here.
We’ve been very clear. This government needs to test the confidence of this House before this government can actually claim that it is not working. You know, again, yesterday the Premier told the press in the rose garden this: “I don’t see a path forward. I don’t see any evidence that it can work.” I think, more aptly, the Premier has found that there is no evidence that the B.C. Liberal government can work, as it lacks the confidence of this House.
The Greens again have made it clear. We are ready to work with all parties once government has demonstrated….
Mr. Speaker: Members. Members. The Chair will hear the question.
A. Weaver: It’s remarkable. They’re getting ready to be in opposition yet again.
Mr. Speaker: Members. The Chair will hear the question.
A. Weaver: Thank you. We’ve got a feisty bunch on the other side.
Mr. Speaker: The question, Member.
A. Weaver: Again — once the government has demonstrated that it has the confidence of the House.
You know, it’s very clear to us. It’s very clear to the legislative press gallery. It’s very clear to the people in British Columbia that this Premier is trying to actually have an election because she knows she doesn’t have the confidence of the House.
Again, my question….
Mr. Speaker: Members, Members. Members, the Chair will hear the question.
A. Weaver: Again….
Mr. Speaker: And the question, Member?
A. Weaver: Again, I encourage the members opposite to read the columns in the paper today by the….
Mr. Speaker: Members. Members.
Mr. Speaker: The Chair will hear the question.
A. Weaver: As I’ve said earlier…
Mr. Speaker: And could you move to the question?
A. Weaver: …it’s time for this lot to be put in a time-out. They’re acting like belligerent children who are kicking and screaming as they’re going into that time-out.
Mr. Speaker: Member, the Chair will hear a question.
A. Weaver: Thank you. My question, through you to the Premier: can the Premier please clarify why she made this statement again when the majority of members are here in the House ready and willing to work together?
Hon. C. Clark: That member, for the last seven days, or the days that we’ve sat, has rejected two pieces of legislation that during the election, he campaigned very hard and said that he supported, including campaign finance reform. He has stood in this House. We’ve seen the spectacle of the Opposition House Leader whispering orders to him and coming down and telling him how to vote.
We have watched as this member has steadfastly refused to work with members in this House on issues with which he said he profoundly agrees. And now he is saying: “Trust me. I do want to work with everybody — just not now.” And now he is saying….
Mr. Speaker: Member. Member.
Hon. C. Clark: After saying to his constituents: “I do want to work with everybody. I do want the Legislature to be different. I don’t want to be part of this arena where good ideas are rejected just for political reasons….” He wasn’t telling the truth about that then, and he isn’t telling the truth about what he is saying today.
Mr. Speaker: Premier.
A. Weaver: Can I ask that you…?
Some Voices: Withdraw.
Mr. Speaker: Premier, can you withdraw?
Mr. Speaker: Thank you. The Chair heard the withdrawal.
Today in the legislature I was up in question period and I wanted to take the opportunity to question the Premier as to whether or not she was going to fulfill her constitutional obligations as First Minister.
Last week, the Premier stated that she doesn’t intend to give the Lieutenant-Governor any advice when she loses the confidence vote scheduled for Thursday. But as I note in the framing of my supposed question today, she has a constitutional obligation to do so should she lose such a motion. The Premier can do one of two things: 1) resign; 2) provide advice to the Lieutenant Governor. The advice to the Lieutenant Governor would be viewed as her seeking another election. Of course, the Lieutenant Governor does not have to listen to such advice.
The Premier reiterated today in a press conference at the BC Legislature that she was not going to be providing advice but would be willing to answer the Lieutenant Governor’s questions. In my view the Premier’s behaviour is disrespectful of the Office of the Lieutenant Governor.
It’s pretty clear that the Premier is trying to trigger a summer election and to set the stage to blame the Lieutenant Governor, rather than accepting responsibility, if such an election is called. As I have reiterated many times before, the games the BC Liberals continue to play are never ending.
What was particularly disturbing about Question Period today was that I was hoping to question the Premier as to whether or not she was going to fulfill her constitutional obligation. Shortly after I rose, the Minister of Finance started calling on the Speaker to rule my question as being out of order.
As you’ll see below, my question was ruled out of order before I even asked it! You literally can’t make this stuff up.
The BC Liberals need to be put in a time out. They are clearly more interested in political calculation and the quest for power than they are in putting the interests of people front and centre. The BC NDP and the BC Greens have an accord that will ensure stability of the house and confidence in an NDP minority government.
A. Weaver: Last week, the Premier stated that she doesn’t intend to give the Lieutenant-Governor any advice when she loses the confidence vote scheduled for Thursday. Yet scholars have been very clear. The Premier has a constitutional duty to provide advice on how to proceed to the Lieutenant-Governor. It’s a long-standing tradition that the Lieutenant-Governor acts on the basis of advice from the first minister. For the Premier to refuse this advice is an abdication of her constitutional responsibility.
My question to the Premier is this.
Mr. Speaker: Member, the question is out of order. It has nothing to do with her ministerial responsibilities.
A. Weaver: The question is as follows, then. The Premier has refused to have a vote in the House on confidence. We’ve delayed after delayed after delayed. Will the Premier make public her recommendation to the Lieutenant-Governor that will be put forward shortly?
Mr. Speaker: Again, that question is out of order. It has nothing do to do with her ministerial responsibility.
Today in the Legislature I rose to pay tribute to a highly respected constituent, James H. C. Walker who unexpectedly died on June 20th.
Below are the text and video of the tribute.
It’s with a heavy heart that I advise the House of the recent passing of a highly-respected constituent, James H. C. Walker. Jim trained as a fisheries scientist in New Brunswick, was widely known for his expertise in wildlife management and land use management. In his 28 years of public service, he held senior positions with the provincial government, including manager of habitat protection, director of wildlife, and assistant deputy minister in charge of fish, wildlife and habitat protection.
He was a respected leader in helping to develop and deliver a number of high-profile provincial initiatives, including the Forest Practices Code, the Muskwa-Kechika management area, the Tla-o-qui-aht land use plan, the grizzly bear strategy, biodiversity strategy, B.C. Trust for Public Lands, Vancouver Island marmot foundation and many more.
Jim was principled in defending the public interest in natural resources and always maintained humour and integrity during his career and in retirement. His incredible personal legacy continues today in the inspiration and development of scientists, practitioners, leaders, decision makers and stakeholders.
Today in the Legislature I took the opportunity to question the Premier about the letter that the Minister of Finance sent to the Speaker today. The BC Liberals were very feisty in their heckling during my questioning.
As is evident from the exchange below, it is pretty clear to me that the Premier’s commitment to working across party lines is predicated on her government being in power. The BC Greens and the BC NDP signed a “supply and confidence agreement” on May 29th. Seven weeks later the BC Liberals continue to delay the inevitable confidence motion.
Below I reproduce the text and video of the exchange today.
A. Weaver: The NDP and the B.C. Greens have already demonstrated their willingness to work across party lines. The Premier has stated….
Mr. Speaker: Members. Members. The Chair will hear the question.
A. Weaver: It’s good to see the government acting like an opposition party right now.
The Premier has stated she’s willing to do the same. Last week, the Liberals even adopted 30 B.C. Green and B.C. NDP policies, most of which we now have all-party agreement on. If the B.C. Liberals are being honest with British Columbians when they say they want to avoid an election and make this Legislature work, then the issues that the Minister of Finance raised today in his letter to you, hon. Speaker, will be the exception, not the norm, since we should all be able to cooperate to advance good public policy in the best interests of British Columbia. So….
Mr. Speaker: Members. Members.
A. Weaver: My question is to the Premier: will she reiterate to this House and to British Columbians her party’s commitment to work constructively across party lines to ensure stability regardless….
Mr. Speaker: Members. Members. The Chair will hear the question.
A. Weaver: Again, will she reiterate for this House and to British Columbians her party’s commitment to work constructively across party lines to ensure stability regardless of where she and her party sit in this chamber?
Hon. C. Clark: Thanks to the member for the question. Yesterday, our government introduced legislation which all three parties campaigned on supporting — on campaign finance reform. And the members of this House….
Mr. Speaker: Members. Members. The Chair heard the question. The Chair will also hear the answer.
Hon. C. Clark: In an effort to put forward legislation, again, that demonstrated that this House could work and work across party lines — campaign finance legislation — which all parties and British Columbians agree it’s time for…. Members of this House voted against it, including that member, before he’d ever even seen it.
In addition to that, yesterday in this House, this government introduced another piece of legislation which all parties, I understood, agreed on — a one-page piece of legislation that would have changed something like two words. Legislation that would have given him official party status. That member also voted against it. So he should be careful about talking about working across party lines. He doesn’t want to be a party. I guess we’ll only be able to work with one of them in this House.
A. Weaver: Well, the B.C. Liberals continue to act like that belligerent child going into a hissy fit, kicking and screaming as they’re put in a time-out that they don’t want to go into.
I didn’t hear the B.C. Liberals campaigning on the election campaign to give the B.C. Green party, party status. I certainly did not hear them campaigning to ban big money on the election campaign. This is revisionist history.
You know, if the B.C. Liberals are truly sincere about their desire to collaborate across party lines and work to implement legislation on the priorities outlined in their throne speech, the question raised in the Minister of Finance’s letters would be of limited relevance. After all, with all the policy agreements that we have in the last few days, there shouldn’t be many tied votes. The Liberals support both of our platforms.
Yet, the government….
Mr. Speaker: Members.
A. Weaver: This is remarkable. They truly are getting ready to sit in opposition. It’s remarkable.
Yet the government appears to unnecessarily be delaying the confidence vote, creating uncertainty and using every opportunity to raise the spectre of a possible election, which only the governing party seems to want.
Did you know that the idea of another election has a lower approval rating than Donald Trump?
My question is this. Assuming you are sincere, assuming….
Mr. Speaker: Members. We’ll hear the question.
A. Weaver: Assuming that the government is sincere about their intention to work constructively across party lines, why are they so focused on the games that they are playing to create uncertainty in British Columbia today?
Hon. C. Clark: So, what I understand from the member from Oak Bay is he thinks that the way to demonstrate that we are working across party lines is for him to vote against the things he campaigned on, because it didn’t come from his preferred party in the Legislature.
He campaigned on campaign finance reform. And then he voted against it. He campaigned in favour of his party and asked very clearly for his party to have third party status. And then he voted against it — in both cases, without even wanting to see the bill before it was introduced.
That is not demonstrating that you can work across party lines. That’s shown that the member opposite has put himself in an ideological box he can’t find his way out of. He isn’t willing to work across party lines.
If he does change his mind about that, though, I would be delighted, if he’d be willing to give leave for it, to offer those two bills to the House again so we can conduct the vote again and demonstrate that we can all work across party lines on issues where we all agree…
Mr. Speaker: Members.
Hon. C. Clark: …because there’s no reason that the leader of the Greens should be working so hard to defeat legislation that he campaigned on.
Seven weeks after an election, the B.C. Liberal government continues to play games in a desperate attempt to hold onto power. Failing that, they are doing everything they can in an attempt to force another election in July.
Yesterday the BC Liberals introduced two bills that were defeated at First Reading. Had they not been defeated, the BC Liberals could have used their passage as evidence that they initially had the confidence of the house. Any subsequent non confidence vote would almost certainly have triggered another election. And such a vote is now scheduled on Thursday.
Rather than accepting the fact that they do not have the confidence of the house, today’s antics were in the form of a letter that Finance Minister de Jong presented to Honourable Steve Thomson, Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, seeking clarification regarding the role of the Speaker in the B.C. legislature.
Later in the day, Mike Farnworth, the BC NDP House Leader, sent the Speaker another letter. In this letter he criticized the BC Liberals for preempting “the Lieutenant Governor’s deliberative process by providing what amounts to constitutional legal advice to the legislature, based on the insulting proposition that Members are not able to collect and assess their own information on this matter.” He further noted “The majority of the Members of the House could as easily ask for your opinion on whether 44 votes in the legislature amounts to a greater or lesser number of voting members than 43. We will not do so, out of abundant respect for the nature of your office.”
Let’s be clear: If the concerns around the speaker cannot be resolved, it will be because the BC Liberals have once again chosen to put their own political self-interest ahead of the interests of British Columbians.
The Liberals delayed recalling the legislature, and have delayed a confidence vote. Other than Carole James, John Horgan, and me, none of the other BC NDP or BC Green MLAs will be speaking in response to the Throne Speech. We have to endure four days of BC Liberal MLAs speaking in favour of the throne speech. But the irony is mind boggling. Two months ago, these same MLAs were campaigning against the very same policies contained in the Throne Speech. Time after time the BC Liberal MLAs also talk about wanting working across party lines to implement BC Green and BC NDP campaign issues.
Conventions is clear. If the B.C. Liberals lose the confidence vote, then the Lieutenant Governor should first see if another party can form government and gain the confidence of the house before going to an election.
Our Confidence and Supply agreement with the B.C. NDP demonstrates that an NDP minority government under Mr. Horgan has the confidence of a majority of members.
The only reason the Speaker concerns would have any merit is if the B.C. Liberals have been deliberately misleading British Columbians about their willingness to work across party lines. It is beginning to seem like for the BC Liberals, working across party lines means BC Liberals will say anything or do anything so long as they remain in power.
If the B.C. Liberals are being honest with British Columbians when they say they want to avoid an election and work across party lines, then we will have one of the most productive legislatures in history. If the Speaker is truly impartial in his role, then he will not step down when the B.C. Liberal government falls.
As this week plays out, it certainly appears that the BC Liberals are acting like a belligerent child kicking and screaming while refusing to be put in a time-out for poor behaviour.