Roundup: A couple of thoughts on the BC situation

Given the (likely) minority government result in British Columbia last week, a number of people have been trying to game out various different scenarios for how this all might happen. Meanwhile, media everywhere are flocking to hear what the Green Party has to say, with their apparent balance of power, while Elizabeth May in Ottawa keep spouting this laundry list of things that apparently 57 percent of British Columbians voted for, despite the fact that there is no actual proof that those voters all voted for those very things, be it electoral reform or stopping the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion. Nevertheless, when UBC economist Kevin Milligan asked my thoughts, here is what I told him:

I do think the fact that the legislature won’t sit until October is a key factor. BC has always been a bit weird about this, and there has been a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth from some political scientists over social media that there is a pattern of cancelling the spring session of the BC legislature and few people seem all that bothered about it, while Christy Clark seems to make it sound like it’s such a terrible imposition that they have to bother sitting at all, which is weird and uncool for a democracy.

There is a burgeoning convention that if it’s been six months, that it’s more likely that the GG or the lieutenant governor will call an election rather than entertain an attempt by the opposition to form government. And what I meant by how leaders perform in the meantime is whether there are any temper tantrums (particularly from the NDP leader, who has been fighting a reputation for being a hothead throughout the campaign), and that will weigh on how the public perceives any kind of government arrangement – we did live through this in Ottawa in 2008, and the fact that Harper mostly kept his cool while Stéphane Dion went apoplectic certainly helped Harper’s case with the general public. As I also mentioned, I have a suspicion that the Greens will try to overplay their hands in trying to get a bigger share of the governing pie, and making a list of demands that may not be saleable to Clark. Of course, the moment that happens, she has ammunition to go back to the voters to say “look at how unreasonable these people are, and they want to destroy the economy, so you need to give me a real majority mandate.” We’ll see if any of this happens, but this is pretty much what I have to say on the matter for now.

Good reads:

  • The government is expected to announce the Defence Policy Review report after the NATO meeting this week, and it looks like it’ll mean new spending.
  • Chrystia Freeland expects that the Americans will trigger the NAFTA renegotiation period soon, now that they have a Trade Representative in place.
  • Amarjeet Sohi pushed back against some of the arguments against the Infrastructure Bank, in particular that the government would assume all risk.
  • A bill to enact the long promised “passenger bill of rights” is expected to be tabled this week.
  • More extreme weather events and higher disaster relief costs has ministers talking mitigation measures and trying to prevent future floods.
  • More reports coming out this week on the state of the RCMP are raising calls that perhaps it’s time for a joint management board instead of a top-down hierarchy.
  • The changing nature of Syria’s al-Qaeda affiliate means problems with attempting prosecutions under Canadian law.
  • MSF is warning that we may be facing another refugee crisis of migrants fleeing from Central America by way of Mexico.
  • Here’s a look at how the Conservative race remains up in the air, despite the fact that Maxime Bernier is out-fundraising everyone else.
  • Adam Radwanski figures that potential NDP leadership hopeful Jagmeet Singh will pose a new kind of problem for Justin Trudeau.

Odds and ends:

The Clerk of the Privy Council talks about the need for better project management as a number of major IT projects are in danger of going off the rails.

2 thoughts on “Roundup: A couple of thoughts on the BC situation

  1. I couldn’t disagree more with some aspects of this post. What evidence do you have to support this “burgeoning convention”? I’m not aware of any relevant precedents–which jurisdictions are you basing this on? I think it would be alarming if the government could arrange the legislative sitting periods so as to postpone a confidence vote and then claim, when the vote occurs, that the other parties have lost their chance at government by the effluxion of time.

    Nor can I see any justification why the BC electorate’s apathetic attitude towards their legislature would excuse a deliberate decision by the government to ignore it for months after (and because) its composition has been significantly changed. If we are to fight against civic illiteracy, we shouldn’t tolerate governments that exploit it–and I can’t tell from the tone of your post how you feel about this issue, which is quite uncharacteristic for you!

    Incidentally, I think the BC legislature used to sit just as much as other provincial assemblies (they sat 110 days in 1992, for instance). It’s not a deeply rooted cultural thing. See

    • 1) Six-month rule has largely been federal, based on comments of past governors general, particularly during the prorogation crisis of 2008. Discussion around it indicated some consensus that it was an acceptable rule of thumb.
      2) Constitutionally, legislatures are only required to meet once a year. That’s a bare minimum mind you, and none of them could get away with it, but that’s what’s written down.
      3) I wasn’t condoning BC’s plans not to have the assembly meet before October – merely commenting that it was the set date, which does have consequences for what was being discussed. I do think they should meet before then, but as I said, the province has become weird about their legislature sitting a lot, which is partly why this particular situation is more curious than it would be in other provinces or federally.

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