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‘We Need to Move On’: NDP and Greens Eager for Confidence Vote as Liberal Bills Shot Down

Refusal to accelerate the vote respects ‘procedures,’ says Liberal minister.

By Andrew MacLeod 26 Jun 2017 | TheTyee.ca

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Find him on Twitter or reach him here.

The British Columbia government lost two routine votes in the legislature Monday, but is attempting to avoid until Thursday a vote that could cause it to fall.

“Premier Christy Clark made a commitment to an early confidence vote, and it doesn’t appear like that’s going to happen,” said NDP leader John Horgan, speaking to reporters. “I think that’s wrong. I think the public thinks that’s wrong. We need to move on. We need to have certainty.”

In the May 9 election, the BC Liberals won 43 of the 87 seats in the legislature, one short of what they needed for a majority. The 41 NDP and three Green MLAs have agreed to use their combined numbers to defeat the government.

They showed Monday they could do that, voting 44 to 42 against the first reading of two government bills. Speaker Steve Thomson, a Liberal, didn’t vote.

One of the bills would have given the Greens official party status even though they have one fewer than the four required.

The other would have banned corporate and union donations to political parties and put a cap of $2,500 on individual donations. It would also have banned donations from outside B.C. and put a value on in-kind contributions.

“It’s a bit baffling that the Green Party which asked for exactly these changes has decided to vote against even looking at the bill,” said Andrew Wilkinson, the justice minister. “It’s a disappointing day for us.”

Noting the Greens also voted against their own official party status, Wilkinson said, “They’ve always said they like to support matters of principle and good public policy, but apparently not today.”

Green Party leader Andrew Weaver said Green MLAs support the substance of the finance reform bill as it was described in last week’s throne speech, but the government should face a confidence vote first.

“In our view it’s not appropriate to be debating government business until such time as the confidence has been tested,” he said. “We’ve been very clear that what’s important is that the very first thing we do is we test the confidence of this house. This house has not had its confidence tested.”

Clark left the legislature quickly after question period and was unavailable to reporters.

Wilkinson said refusing to accelerate a confidence vote is respectful of the rules that govern the legislature. “There are procedures around these things in terms of how we have the standing rules of the house which provide for a certain number of days of debate,” he said.

“There’s a process to go through that is constitutionally founded that has been very successful in protecting our democracy over the decades and centuries, and it’s incumbent on us to follow that process and not make it up as we go along.”

The earliest the NDP and Greens can force a vote is Thursday under a process they began on Monday when Horgan submitted an amendment seconded by Green MLA Sonia Furstenau that would add to the throne speech motion that the “present government does not have the confidence of this house.”

“That’s it,” said Horgan. “Pretty simple. We could do it in about 10 minutes.”

Motions can be voted on immediately if there’s unanimous consent. “They could do the right thing today or they could drag it out to Thursday,” said Horgan.

“You could end it Wednesday, you could end it Tuesday, you could end it today,” said NDP house leader Mike Farnworth. “Nothing would stop the government from saying ‘we have no further speakers today’ and us saying ‘we have no further speakers today, therefore put the question.’”

With the Liberals signalling they intend to continue the throne speech debate, the confidence vote should happen at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, Farnworth said.  [Tyee]

Read more: BC Politics

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