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BC Politics

As Clark’s Liberals Dither and Stall, BC Faces Life or Death Issues

We have urgent crises to fix, but a pantomime premier and her make-believe cabinet won’t get out of the way.

Bill Tieleman 20 Jun

Bill Tieleman is a former NDP strategist whose clients include unions and businesses in the resource and public sector. Tieleman is a regular Tyee contributor who writes a column on B.C. politics every Tuesday in 24 Hours newspaper. Email him at see Twitter @BillTieleman or visit his blog.

“We don’t need no badges! I don’t have to show you any stinking badges!” — Mexican bandit in Treasure of the Sierra Madre, 1948

Enough about the bloody Speaker of the B.C. legislature.

Get on with it and get the place working again — we have life and death issues to fix.

Here’s what will happen: BC Liberal Premier Christy Clark will finally be defeated in a confidence vote that can’t come soon enough but will likely occur in July, the BC Liberal MLA who became Speaker will quit, and a BC New Democrat MLA will be elected Speaker.

And here’s what that Speaker should do: break every single 43 to 43 tie vote in the legislature by voting in favour of the BC NDP government backed by Green Party MLAs.

Because — get this straight BC Liberals — it’s still majority rules, over and over. Period.

There are no laws or regulations that stop the Speaker from voting their conscience on every piece of legislation to ensure its passage.

In fact, it’s clear that voting to break ties is the Speaker’s obligation — to think otherwise is to deliberately misread parliamentary history and guidelines going back centuries.

“If the numbers in a division [a vote] are equal, the Speaker, who otherwise does not vote, must give the casting vote. In the performance of this duty, he is at liberty to vote like any other Member, according to his conscience, without assigning a reason...” says Erskine May’s definitive 1844 parliamentary practice guide.

And Section 49 of Canada’s Constitution Act states: “Questions arising in the House of Commons shall be decided by a Majority of Voices other than that of the Speaker, and when the Voices are equal, but not otherwise, the Speaker shall have a Vote.”

The new NDP Speaker will have campaigned on the NDP platform and signed the confidence and supply agreement with the BC Greens, so they have a duty to vote to support their commitment to constituents and the province.

And thank goodness, because there are literally life and death decisions to be made by a new B.C. government.

This month we learned that four people are dying every day in B.C. from drug overdoses — 488 in the first four months — mostly due to the presence of deadly fentanyl.

That will push the total death toll to 1,470 this year if nothing more is done — over 500 more fatalities than in 2016 and almost triple those in 2015.

As Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson says: “The fentanyl crisis is a bloodbath in all corners of Vancouver with no end in sight.”

And yet the BC Liberal government has failed miserably to deal with this urgent medical disaster — it’s time for a new government to act and save hundreds of lives.

So the idea of this pantomime premier and her make-believe cabinet delaying a confidence vote while people are literally dying in the streets so they can talk about their fantasy throne speech is appalling.

And to go through several “question periods” where they pretend to be ministers for a fortnight is absolutely offensive. The BC Liberals’ past 16 years of inaction and neglect are more than enough.

Say your piece, put your government up to an immediate confidence vote, and accept your loss.

There is simply far too much for a new government to do to have Clark trying to save her vanishing party leadership by desperately stalling for time with tactics that put her interests far above those of the province.

B.C. has to work hard to make sure the erratic U.S. administration of President Donald Trump doesn’t kill 30,000 softwood lumber jobs and endanger a lot more of our economy.

And this province needs to end the uncertainty caused by BC Liberal delays and start dealing with the very real problems facing our economy, housing, health care, education and social services.

So BC Liberals: accept the voters’ verdict and let the new government and Speaker get to work on the agenda a majority of British Columbians support.

You had your 16-year chance — now get the hell out of the way.  [Tyee]

Read more: BC Politics

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