“May you live in interesting times…” –old Chinese curse, author and date unknown
Why the cryptic reference to some old curse? Well, tomorrow could see the beginning of a very interesting period in BC politics. And while I never envisioned a blog post about the recent Provincial election I can’t resist.
Because a curler finds himself smack-dab in the middle of it all.
For those of you blissfully ignorant, this past spring BC went to the polls (for any American readers, that’s similar to your State gubernatorial elections). It was Premier Christy Clark’s Liberals vs John Horgan’s New Democratic Party and Andrew Weaver’s Green Party. At stake; the next four years of BC’s future.
Now thanks to reading Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing On the Campaign Trail, I am a bit of a political junkie. Not office politics, for those butt-kissing shenanigans nauseate me (and are the main reason I gave up the white collar world for a blue one-I sleep better and make pretty much the same money), but the real fun stuff; provincial and federal politics. And say what you like about Trump, Trudeau or Brexit, because BC has them all beat.
Since the 1960’s the battle for BC’s soul has been primarily between the far right and the not-so-far left. The right represented first by the Social Credit Party and then the poorly named BC Liberals-after Bill Vanderzalm resigned in disgrace-thanks to some moves not dissimilar to those happening south of the border right now-and pulled the Socreds down the drain with him.
So when old Bill stepped down in the late 1980’s the NDP swept in, promising social change for everyone’s betterment-which didn’t really happen. They had a great Premier in former Vancouver Mayor Mike Harcourt, but his cabinet was riddled with fools who rather than do good, helped themselves to the old slop trough.
In the end Harcourt had to take the fall for his cabinet and also resigned. In his place stepped Glen Clark, a guy I wouldn’t buy a used car from. He ultimately met his fall when he got caught accepting freebies from contractors and blew millions on 3 aluminum, catamaran fast ferries that were, well, not very fast and digested more than a few seals.
Clark was no left leaning socialist. After he left the NDP in supposed disgrace, he showed more bounce than a lacrosse ball, ending up in management for the most right wing billionaire in BC; Jim Pattison.
Meanwhile, former Social Credit members were busy rebranding themselves as the BC Liberal Party behind the leadership of Gordon Wilson. Calling these guys ‘Liberals’ is kinda like packaging Stephen Harper as a Communist. They’re not left, they’re not even middle of the road. If they were on the Vancouver Canucks they’d be going up and down the right side of the ice, hardly ever straying five feet from the boards. You get the picture, Liberal in name only.
Wilson would meet his own end when he got caught, literally, with his pants down having an affair with fellow MLA Judy Tyabji (although in fairness, both were in bad marriages at the time). Into the void stepped another former Vancouver mayor: Gordon Campbell. He adroitly took advantage of Wilson’s hard work , the NDP’s clumsiness and got himself elected Premier.
I didn’t agree with a lot of Campbell’s platform, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t like the guy. First off, he has an eerie and striking resemblance to my little brother. So much that on multiple occasions Murray has had people mistake him for the former Premier. And old Gordy was pretty human-as evidenced by the time he got a DUI while vacationing in Hawaii. You may not have liked his politics but any guy can identify with that shit-eating grin from his mug shot. Plus, it gave my brother an easy lay-up Halloween costume for the rest of his life.
The DUI might have ended most politician’s careers, but Campbell has skin of Teflon. He continued on as Premier and ultimately left of his own choosing, passing the baton to Ms. Clark. And all the while the NDP kept fumbling the ball with inept leaders until John Horgan came on board. Meanwhile, a funny thing happened on the way to the future.
The BC Green Party quietly became an acceptable alternative for voters.
Long a laughing joke in BC politics; picture a bunch of far-left, hippy eco-freaks sitting around a bong, contemplating the overthrow of the upper class and the rise of the working proletariat-the Greens had slowly acquired some very respectable and intelligent people to run for their party by the start of the 21st century.
Thanks in part to stronger candidates, Green success in Europe and voter dissatisfaction in BC, they also began to increase their piece of the popular vote-mainly at the expense of the NDP. Long a champion of BC’s environment, the NDP began to lose some of their support from environmentalists and First Nations as they moved away from a more radical, far-left stance. Taking a softer line in an attempt to appear more corporate, business friendly and less hammer and sickle.
It might have even worked except for the improving Greens. In fact, the Greens have taken so much of the NDP’s support that they likely cost the NDP not only this election, but the previous one as well. Four years ago Horgan did not anticipate the support the Greens had. Although the NDP led in the polls right up to election day, a late surge by Clark coupled with the Greens splitting the Left vote in key ridings gave the Liberals a majority of seats and four more years in power.
This time around the outcome is far different and far more interesting. Neither of the two main parties won a majority. With 87 seats available, the Liberals took 43, the NDP 41 and the surprising Greens got their best result yet; 3 seats and a big portion of the popular vote. Thanks in part to Andrew Weaver’s dynamic leadership they not only took votes away from the NDP, they also began to scratch at Liberal support. The final result leaves a shocked Clark with a minority government.
So you now had the Greens holding the balance of power in their hand. Would they side with the Liberals or the NDP? or would they side with no one? They are, in short, kingmakers.
I had hoped for an NDP win when I voted, but after the last go round I had to agree with a couple of polls stating we stood a good chance of a minority government. If that happened, there was little doubt in my mind that the Greens would throw their support behind the NDP. The two parties are not far apart ideologically and the NDP are far more likely to make environment and economic decisions along the Green line than the Liberals are.
And a few weeks later, after all the recounts were done, they did exactly that. Announcing the signing of a 4 year cooperation pact between the two parties to give them a 44 seat majority in the legislature and make John Horgan Premier.
Now Christy Clark isn’t going down without a fight. Or perhaps its more apt to say, showboating. I truly do not like the woman or trust her but you have to give her credit. She hasn’t survived this long in politics by being stupid. She knows that before the end of the week she’s facing a non-confidence vote in the legislature that will put John Horgan in the Premiers office, and that within her own party there are long knives out for her if she cannot bring about another snap election to try and regain a Liberal majority. So she’s playing every card left in her hand.
The first card is to make a grand opening speech with huge promises to appeal to voters. Promises which come straight from the NDP and Green platforms (think: $10/day daycare, huge boost in Welfare payments, increased funding in health and education, no MSP premiums, etc) and which she has little, if any, intention of keeping. It’s an attempt to create sympathy if she can get that quick election.
The second card is after the non-confidence vote immediately demand a new election from the Lieutenant Governor-which will fail because the NDP and Greens have a pact, but it will buy her a short amount of time.
The final card is the Speaker. She has to appoint a Speaker at the start of the legislature sitting and while it doesn’t have to be so, it will be a Liberal. Keep in mind that the job of the Speaker is to maintain the rules and order when the Legislature sits. It’s usually a non-voting, neutral position but the Speaker is allowed to break ties.
Her gambit is to appoint a Liberal and then have that speaker resign when she loses the non-confidence vote. This would then mean the new government would have to appoint a replacement from within their own ranks, making the seat count now 43 to 43-a tie. Her point will be you can’t govern in this situation so give me an election.
This could work. However it can, and will likely, fail.
All Horgan has to do is remind the opposition that the Speaker can vote to break ties and that it was Clark forcing their Speaker to resign that created this situation. This, IMO, is the most likely scenario and the LG will give his coalition an opportunity to govern.
While Clark no doubt believes her chosen Speaker will do as bided there is a wild card at play. If the rumors of dissension within the Liberal ranks have merit, then her Speaker might shock every one and not resign.
The other possibility is that Horgan and Weaver have identified and wooed a disgruntled Liberal who they will appoint as Speaker. This mystery individual could cross the floor to join the NDP/Greens, become an Independent or, if they want to throw the Liberal party into turmoil and oust Clark as leader, remain a Liberal but not participate in any voting.
Fascinating, isn’t it? Makes Game of Thrones look like child’s play. As the old curse said; …interesting times.
And stuck right in the middle is a curler. Two time Brier Rep and rookie Liberal MLA out of Cranbrook; Tom Shypitka. T-man to his friends and family, Tom is a solid guy. I don’t agree with his choice of political party but I know he’s sincere in wanting to represent and help the folks in his riding. Although, I’d be lying if I denied teasing him on Facebook about crossing the floor since he’s started to use his FB page to promote some Liberal propaganda (no different than any MLA from any party, but I’m still going to poke fun at him).
Political differences aside, it’s always good to see new people get involved with hopefully a different perspective and fresh ideas. I do wish Tom all the best but fear that if Clark gets that snap election his stint as an MLA could be a short one. Why?
Because the one land mine lurking in all of Clark’s tricks to keep power is her hopes that she will fool the electorate and regain votes.
Without going into lengthy detail, she has put a pretty sour taste in BC voter’s mouths these past 4 years and I don’t think they’ll buy empty promises or musical Speakers chairs-otherwise she would have got that majority and I would be writing about something else.
If she gets a snap election I think voters will look at who’s to blame for another two months of wasted time and taxpayers money-and I don’t see the scapegoat cloak falling on the shoulders of the NDP/Greens.
However, IMO the LG is not going to call another election. Instead, she’s more likely to give Horgan a chance to govern, no matter who is sitting in the Speakers chair. And if the coalition works, the longer it survives the weaker the Liberals become as the Greens look more and more like a truly viable alternative for opposition and possibly, one day in the future, as a sitting provincial government.
Like I said, interesting times indeed.