British Columbia·Analysis

Theatre of the absurd: Day 1 of historic week in B.C. politics sees contradictions by all parties

There may only be four days — and plenty of spin — left until 16 years of B.C. Liberal power in British Columbia comes to an end.

The crucial non-confidence vote won't come until Thursday but there's plenty of spinning until then

The leaders of all three parties gave optimistic speeches, unsure of what their fates will ultimately be. From left to right: NDP Leader John Horgan, Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver and Liberal Leader Christy Clark. (CBC)

A bill that passes first reading is the equivalent of a political slam dunk.

Almost never does a piece of legislation get stuck at this routine first stage.

But these aren't normal times, and this was one of the least normal days the legislature has seen. On Monday, two pieces of legislation fell before most members could even read through the proposed new rules for campaign financing.

Then it was time for a debate on the throne speech. The B.C. Liberals just tried to keep the debate going by sending out member after member to speak on any number of topics. 

Just one speaker stood for the NDP — Carole James. The long-time NDP member tried to deliver the final blow to Premier Christy Clark's government. 

"She [Clark] hopes we will take a look at the throne speech and see in our hearts of hearts that the government has listened to the public of British Columbia," she said. 

"There is an old saying that my grandmother use to say: take a look at the actions, not just the words. If we look at the government's action this is just a last ditch effort to hold on to power."

Words not matching the actions

"Take a look at the actions, not just the words," was the theme of Monday. 

For Liberal Finance Minister Mike de Jong, it meant standing next to a hockey jersey that read "controlling spending is the best defense" as he defended a throne speech that contained 30 new promises that weren't in his party's platform, many of which involved more spending. 

For Green Party leader Andrew Weaver, it meant voting against a motion that would give his party official status in the house, after weeks of saying how crucial that was to his party.

For the NDP, it meant voting against legislation to ban union and corporate donations — legislation the party introduced six times while in opposition — without a hint of debate. 

Of course, the Liberals shut down those six NDP motions to ban corporate and union donations, only to have a sudden change of heart on the matter after an election that leaves them on the brink of defeat.

In short, Monday was 'opposite day' in the B.C. Legislature.

Vote will be Thursday

While the NDP and Greens each had one speaker Monday, the Liberals are taking the opposite approach.

Each member has been given the chance to deliver a 30 minute speech and the topics can have very little to do with the vote that looms — like Supernatural and home-grown food in the town of Golden.

Strip away the rhetoric and the press conferences and the theatre surrounding the debate and the failed legislation and the main point of significance Monday was the Liberals are not giving unanimous consent to the NDP's non-confidence motion.

It means the motion — "the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne be amended by adding the following words: 'But Her Honour's present government does not have the confidence of this House.'" — is submitted to the clerk, and formally introduced Wednesday. 

That motion will be voted on when there are no more MLAs wanting to debate the throne speech — or at end of Thursday's session — whichever comes first.

You can bet on the option that takes the longest time.

"Vote is still on Thursday?" a reporter asked Christy Clark as she hurried quickly from the legislature chamber to her office before most were able to chase her down.

"Yeah, that is when it is scheduled for, so that is when it will be happening," she said, before arriving at her office.  

Technically, "scheduled" is the wrong word.

Then again, very little made sense Monday.