In a surprise move Thursday, Kelowna-Mission MLA Steve Thomson, the province’s long-time Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations minister, was elected speaker of the B.C. Legislature.
The job, however, is expected to be a short-term one as the minority Liberal government of Premier Christy Clark is expected to fall on a confidence vote next week thanks to a previously announced NDP-B.C. Green Party alliance.
Clark said prior to Thomson being elected speaker, she expected whoever was named to the role from the Liberal side would resign from the position if the government is defeated. It would then be up to the NDP or Greens to put forward a candidate for speaker.
After his election, Thomson told reporters in Victoria he was honoured and excited by his new role and, as an ex-rugby player, was prepared for the any “skirmishes” he may have to deal among MLAs.
In the Legislature chamber, he told his fellow MLAs he would endeavour at all times to carry out his duties with fairness and integrity in all aspects of the work.
“It’s a great honour you have bestowed on me,” he said.
Thomson’s election as speaker caught many off guard, including his staff back at his constituency office in Kelowna.
The affable, six-foot, six-inch tall Thomson, first elected in Kelowna-Mission in 2009 and then re-elected with healthy majorities in both 2013 and 2017, was praised by both Clark and NDP leader John Horgan.
While Clark said she felt Thomson is a good person to have in the chair because of his personality and she said jokingly, because of his size, Horgan said he always found Thomson to be fair with other members of the Legislature.
Thomson was the only candidate for speaker.
The government will present its Speech from the Throne this afternoon that will layout what the Liberals want to do if they continue on as the government of B.C.
But the NDP and B.C. Greens have said they plan to vote against the speech, a confidence issue, and with their one vote majority bring down the government next week. The NDP, with the backing of the Greens, would then be expected to be invited by the lieutenant-governor to form the next B.C.government.
Parliamentary tradition calls for an elected speaker to continue in the role for the length of the parliamentary session, but Thomson is expected to break that by resigning if the government falls.
The Liberals currently have 43 seats in the Legislature, the NDP 41 and the B.C. Greens three.