The Current

How long can this new B.C. government last?

B.C.'s shaky new political era will have a brand new premier at the helm and a lot of challenges ahead to remain sustainable.

John Horgan is B.C.'s new premier

6 years ago
Duration 1:03
Featured VideoHe will have the opportunity to test the confidence of the legislature

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B.C.'s NDP Leader John Horgan will become the next premier, following Christy Clark's Liberals fall in a 44-42 vote of non-confidence.

In the wake of the May 9 election, there have been recounts, a throne speech, and policy concessions from the government. This week saw the Liberal government fall and the lieutenant governor asking the NDP with the support of the Greens to give it a go.

But as a new government is set to take over, how long can it last?  With only a one-seat edge, every MLA will need to be present for all key votes.

Former B.C. MLA David Mitchell, who sat as a Liberal and then independent member, calls it a "fragile agreement — paper thin, razor thin margin in the legislature."

He says the real test is coming up and that is if Horgan with the support of the Greens can command the confidence of the legislature.
NDP Leader John Horgan and Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver shake hands on May 29, 2017, after announcing an agreement for the Greens to support the NDP in the B.C. legislature for the next four years. (Mike McArthur/CBC)

Mitchell says the challenge comes down to mathematics.

"Once a speaker is elected, there's essentially a tie in the B.C. legislature — 43 to 43 members," he tells The Current's guest host Mike Finnerty.

Getting around this is not easy.

"What is required according to British parliamentary tradition is that the speaker would cast a deciding vote in the event of a tie. Now that rarely, rarely happens in any legislature or parliament and so surely it can't be counted on to routinely occur on every vote, whether it's a matter of confidence or not that comes up in the legislature."

Mitchell suggests it will come down to party discipline and Horgan's ability to assert an agenda for the new NDP government.

"My guess is even though there have been some brave statements by Horgan and Andrew Weaver, the leader of the Greens, that they plan to govern for two, three, four years — a full mandate if possible — it seems unlikely to me that this fragile governance can be sustained for very long."

But he tells Finnerty, if they do stick it out and present the NDP as a viable and responsible government, there's a chance to move forward.

"When the inevitable next B.C. election takes place — and I think that would be sooner rather than later — it will give them a runway. It will give them a headway into the next election as they seek a majority."

Listen to the full segment at the top of this web post.

This segment was produced by The Current's Liz Hoath.