BC deal between NDP and Greens

In the wake of British Columbia’s provincial assembly election, which did not result in a single-party majority, a deal has been stuck that would see the government change. The NDP (41 seats) and the Greens (3) would topple the incumbent Liberals (43).

It is a “confidence and supply” arrangement. That is, the NDP and Greens are not forming a coalition cabinet; rather, the Greens are promising support to the NDP to form and maintain a minority government. The deal is intended to last for four years.

Details remain scant at this point, but regarding Greens’ priorities, the Globe and Mail (second link above) reports that the party

had set out three “deal breakers” that include official party status, campaign finance reform and proportional representation, although other issues, including the party’s opposition to several Liberal resource priorities, also would have factored into such talks.

26 thoughts on “BC deal between NDP and Greens

  1. It’s going to be interesting to see if they can hold on to that 1-seat majority for the entire 4 year term.

  2. The last Canadian government which planned a referendum to introduce proportional representation was Bernard Lord’s Progressive Conservative government in New Brunswick, after the 2004 Report of the Commission on Legislative Democracy. However, it had only a narrow majority. When a Progressive Conservative MLA said he would have to resign his seat as he had accepted a job in the private sector, Lord did not want to govern with a hung legislature, nor risk a by-election loss, but instead called an early general election. He lost in, ironically, a wrong-winner election, when the Liberals got fewer votes but the most seats. Sad, when Bernard Lord had said a 50% majority in the referendum would have been sufficient to implement the MMP model recommended by the Commission.

    Moral for the new BC government: get on with your plans for proportional representation. Don’t count on having the full four years.

  3. I did a search for the post where commentators rightly criticized provincial NDP governments for not implementing proportional representation, despite it being part of the national NDP platform.

    The search took me to right this post, so the website is ahead of me.

    So it looks like we will finally see a provincial NDP government actually implement PR.

  4. CBC has a summary of the NDP-Green pact.

    Regarding the point that we care most about at F&V:

    The NDP and the Greens are also pledging to hold a referendum on proportional representation that would take place in the fall of 2018, concurrent with the next municipal elections in British Columbia. If the referendum passes, the 2021 provincial election would be conducted under the form of proportional representation that is approved.

  5. “b. Proportional Representation
    i. Both the BC New Democrat Government and the BC Green Caucus are committed to
    proportional representation. Legislation will be introduced in the 1st sitting of the
    next session of the BC Legislative Assembly with a BC New Democrat Government
    establishing that:
    (1) A referendum on proportional representation will take place in the fall of 2018,
    concurrent with the next municipal election; and
    (2) The form of proportional representation approved in the referendum will be
    enacted for the next provincial election.
    ii. The parties agree that they will work together in good faith to consult British
    Columbians to determine the form of proportional representation that will be put to
    a referendum.
    iii. The parties agree to both campaign actively in support of the agreed-upon form of
    proportional representation.”

    That’s one form, not a PEI-style multiple choice.

    By the way, provincial NDP governments have never been bound by the national NDP platform. Each provincial party is fully autonomous, provided only that it follows the principles of the federal party. PR is not, sadly, mentioned in the federal statement of principles.

    • I read the agreement. I think it’s ambiguous – it does not state how the specific form of PR will be chosen, and so leaves the possibility open that it will be chosen at the 2018 referendum itself.

  6. What form of PR is going to be chosen? STV or MMP? The Greens could have also gotten PR for local government elections as well so that voters can get use to PR. Is BC the test case that is ripe for PR? There will be a simple majority for the referendum, right?

  7. What are the rules governing the Speakership? WIll the (not) coalition be disciplined enough (and conventionally allowed) to force a 43-43 tie and win on the Speaker’s casting vote? Is there any chance of persuading a Liberal to (half) cross the floor to the Speaker’s chair?

  8. I noticed the Greens are demanding to reform the rules on official party status. I hope they intend to abolish it; it’s one of the most damnable rules prevalent in Canadian parliaments. At Westminster, every party, even if it has just one MP, is allowed a representative at every committee, while in Ottawa, members of parties with under 12 seats are effectively 2nd-class MPs, with far fewer rights to participate, including being completely shut out of committees.

  9. This election’s seat distribution is a dream come true for Westminster legislature wonks. It reminds me of of some of the seat calculus in First Among Equals, by Jeffrey Archer.

    More than once, we’ve seen minority and bare-majority governments in Canada drag their own party members to the speaker’s chair. Usually, it’s born of a long-in-power gov’t with too much arrogance vs. practicality.

    Christie Clark is smarter than most, it seems to me, and falls on the practical side. If I’m the Liberals, I find a way to drag a Green or NDP member to the speakers chair, by hook or by crook. Then the speaker gets to cast the deciding vote in any supply or confidence motion, which must support the government. Since you can’t get regular legislation passed, you stuff your priorities into an omnibus budget bill.

    Given the cracks already appearing in the NDP-Green coalition, I give this scenario about a 25% chance of happening. Delicious until an opposition day is scheduled with the deputy speaker in the chair (a Liberal, presumably).

    And this is why I love FPTP so much – the pure entertainment it generates! Oh, to be Christie Clark’s version of Alistair Campbell this week would be marvelous. The thick of it, indeed.

    • “the speaker must support the government.” No, none of the conventions for how Speakers behave are law (“must”), and will obviously not be followed where there is only a one-seat majority. Although there are also other means to deal with the Speaker’s role, but we must wait and see.

      • It’s true that we are talking of conventions, but convention can be law. There’s nothing ‘obvious’ about the behaviour you describe, since what you’re suggesting does not have precedent. Rather the opposite. Still, I agree that it remains a possibility. It would be rash on the part of the speaker, as it could lead to all sorts of legal wrangling and constitutional questions.

        In a way, it’s a game of chicken with regard to respecting norms.

      • There is a convention that the speaker use the casting vote to support the status quo ante. That is not quite the same as supporting the government. For example the casting vote should not be used to support a gag or guillotine.

        And as we all know the conventions are not enforceable in a court and they are in fact so vague that typically both sides will claim to be acting in terms of conventions when they are not. The Harper/Abbot claim that in a Westminster parliament the largest party should always form the government is an example of a convention that was entirely unknown before they made it up.

      • Some conventions do turn out to be enforceable by the court, as Harper found out at least twice that I can recall.

        Having to support the status quo ante is why I suggested the Liberals try to stuff their legislation in omnibus budget form, because the speaker’s vote to support the status quo means defeating ‘regular’ legislation, only supporting matters of confidence, which includes budgets by another convention .

        Note: When I say “suggest”, I do so from the pov of a “political creature”, not a democrat. Although I do believe that the government, when it earns a plurality, should at least test the confidence of the legislature, as Clark has chosen, rather than simply throw up their hands. It warms my heart to see the Westminster system practices follow intent, a rare enough sight.

      • Ross

        I’m not sure which uses you are referring to, but I’d love to read them.

      • Alan – I think you were referring to someone else. Or: what uses are you thinking I wrote about?

      • There exist many practices which are adhered to in Canada that are not included in the Constitution Act or any other formal constitutional document. These practices are called Conventions of the Constitution and are made up of accepted procedures and well recognized practices that are binding on those to whom they are meant to apply.

        One incident I was thinking about regarding Harper was when the Supreme Court rejected his nominee through an unwritten convention regarding the particular Court the appointee had or had not sat on. This may not be the best example, because the Court’s decision relied on some pretty thin reeds.

      • In response to Ross Trusler: the Supreme Court’s rejection of Harper’s nominee was not due to any unwritten convention. It was due to the explicit wording of the Supreme Court Act.

      • Sadly, new Westminster conventions are fabricated on the spur of the moment whenever a general election returns a parliament without a definite majority.

        The conventions are also fairly variable. The prime minister of Australia and the premier of New South Wales always resign after a general election. In other states the premier only resigns after losing their majority. Anne Twomey has covered the territory in frightening detail.

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