Charlotte Views: A chance to quit B.C.’s winner-takes-all politics

“We’ll know soon enough how this unelected official will exercise her power.”

Once again, as I write this column, it’s impossible to know who will be the next premier of British Columbia. There are two likely possibilities. The first is that Lieutenant Governor Judith Guichon, the Queen’s representative in British Columbia, will ask NDP leader John Horgan to try and form a government after NDP and Green MLAs vote no-confidence in the BC Liberals. This scenario would reflect the fact that 44 New Democrat and Green MLAs, a majority, have agreed to work together.

The second scenario is that Guichon may choose to dissolve the assembly if the BC Liberals lose a confidence vote.

In this case, the unelected lieutenant governor would simply ignore the majority of elected MLAs who have agreed to form government and support John Horgan as premier, tossing aside a key principle of responsible government.

In last week’s Speech from the Throne, Christy Clark’s BC Liberal government laid out a series of promises that directly contradicted much of her election platform. While some of these new promises are welcome, such as funding for childcare and increases in welfare rates, the larger point is that Clark can’t be trusted. It’s one thing for a government to run on a platform and to fall short on it, but quite another for it to immediately reverse its positions.

The BC Liberals should expect more of their leader, especially since just over a month ago these same promises were deemed risky and unworkable by Clark herself.

Which is it?

Did she mean what she said before? Or does she mean what she says now?

Clark is a fighter, and in the past she’s held to her image of being plain-spoken and principled. While I didn’t agree with many of her stated principles, I at least appreciated the rhetoric of a leader willing to take the tough position. But now she seems simply desperate — a politician willing to say anything to stay in power. That’s disheartening. The point of democracy and elections is for voters to tell government (or, in our system, quite literally to tell the unelected Queen’s representative) what we want and who we want to govern. Voters said we want change.

Lt. Governor Guichon serves an important function in our democracy. For one thing, she’s supposed to elevate the institution of her office above politics. She will bring her impartiality into question if she decides to call a snap election, rather than allow a majority of MLAs to support John Horgan as premier. Based on what the NDP and Greens said they’ll do, we can assume that Clark won’t secure the support of the assembly. In this case, it should not matter that the Liberals have more MLAs than the NDP, since Clark can’t garner majority support and Horgan can. But in our system of government, the Lt. Governor gets to make the call.

Hopefully by the time you read this, she will have called on Horgan to form a government with the support of both NDP and Green MLAs.

As a supporter of NDP priorities, I’m hopeful that the NDP, under Horgan’s lead, will prove itself and govern responsibly. But I am also hopeful that the Green Party will prove its worth as a junior partner to the NDP. The NDP and Greens share a common base. They also share similar divisions.

One of these shared divisions is the tension between rural and urban regions of the province. My hope is that a partnership between these two political parties will bridge divisions and unite progressives. I see much potential in the partnership and would like to see Horgan and Weaver live up to what they’ve promised.

This election shows why it matters for us all to be informed about how our government works.

Lt. Governor Guichon is solely empowered to decide on the future of multi-party accords and coalitions as a viable alternative to winner-take-all politics. We’ll know soon enough how this unelected official will exercise her power.

What she decides will affect us all.