Waters: Liberals not going down without a fight

With its hold on power slipping away, the B.C. Liberals still have moves to make.

According to the B.C. Liberals, lessons learned from winning the battle but losing the war in the recent provincial election pushed them to make two serious u-turns in political direction. Hogwash.

Social Development Minister Heather Stillwell’s insistence the Liberals will increase welfare rates by $100 per month—after a decade-long freeze—and Attorney General Andrew Wilkinson’s saying big money donations to parties will be banned are political moves, pure and simple.

They are aimed at making the NDP and Greens vote against two positions they support when they vote down the Liberals’ Throne Speech in order to bring down Christy Clark’s government. They will also be used by the Liberals to claim credit when they are reintroduced in the coming months by the yet-to-be installed new NDP minority government.

Cynical? Nah. It’s the way politics is played.

So too is the kerfuffle brewing over the tenure of the speaker of the Legislature the Liberals plan to put forward later this week. But in that case, the Liberals are right.

It’s not up to the Liberals to provide a speaker for a party that not only plans to bring down Clark’s government, but also plans to do it to take the reigns of power with a one-seat majority thanks to the B.C. Greens.

As the NDP has pointed out, the party in power has a responsibility to appoint a speaker. If that’s the NDP, it’s their job. If it’s to the detriment of NDP voting strength, that’s its problem.

So the Liberal speaker plans to step down after the Liberal government is brought down. And the NDP’s one-seat majority will evaporate in straight forward head-to-head voting with the Liberals in the Legislature. That is unless its “neutral” speaker starts regularly breaking tied votes in its favour. And that’s something the supposedly neutral speaker is only expected to do on rare occasions, not as a matter of course. Kinda takes the neutrality out of the job, eh?

But welcome to the new normal of B.C politics.

All this, of course, is because voters left the make-up of the Legislature at 43 seats for the Liberals, 41 for the NDP and three for the Greens.

And these issues are just a foreshadow of some of the difficulties facing an NDP minority government. Whether it’s a final decision on the Site C dam—a real Hobson’s choice for leader and premier-in-waiting John Horgan—minimum wage or Lower Mainland bridge tolls, Clark’s Liberals are not about to make this easy for him.

And remember, Clark told us she heard the message from voters loud and clear. She said they want B.C. politicians to work better together. If this is “better,” I’d hate to see when things really get ugly and both sides drop the gloves for some real parliamentary pugilism.

One thing is for sure, the start of the next B.C. election campaign, not matter when that vote occurs, will start the minute MLAs walk into the Legislature later this week. So don’t expect Robert’s, or anyone else’s, Rules of Order.

Alistair Waters is the assistant editor of the Capital News.