VICTORIA — British Columbia’s minority Liberal government was defeated Thursday in a non-confidence vote in the legislature, setting the stage for the NDP to govern or for another election.
No members of the legislature broke ranks as the Greens backed the New Democrats’ non-confidence motion to defeat Premier Christy Clark’s government.
The Liberals lost the vote 44-42. As the presiding officer in the legislature, the Speaker did not vote.
As Clark left the legislature, her supporters lined the hallway clapping and shaking her hand.
Members of the NDP applauded and embraced each other after the vote.
What happens now will be up to Lt.-Gov Judith Guichon, who has to decide whether to allow NDP Leader John Horgan to try to form a government or dissolve the legislature, prompting an election.
Clark arrived at the lieutenant-governor’s official residence shortly after the vote to meet with Guichon.
Clark, whose Liberals have held power for 16 years, made an impassioned plea to members of the legislature to support her government.
In a bid to remain in power, the Liberals adopted NDP and Green promises from last month’s election in their throne speech including higher social assistance rates, banning corporate, union and third-party donations to political parties, spending more on childcare and increasing the carbon tax.
“When we go into political combat we all acknowledge that sometimes we spend so much time fighting with one another in here that it’s hard to listen to what British Columbians want. And the throne speech is an answer to that,” she said.
“It’s an answer to what voters told us on May 9. It’s an acknowledgment, a sincere acknowledgment, that we didn’t get it right. It is an expression of renewed priorities based on what voters told us, including that they want us to work across party lines with one another.”
But the opposition parties signalled from the outset they had no intention of backing the Liberals, defeating two measures they had supported during the election.
The work of government has been in limbo for almost two months since the Liberals won a minority government with 43 members in the 87-seat legislature.
After the election, the NDP, with 41 seats, and the Greens, with three seats, signed an agreement to defeat the Liberals in a bid to put the New Democrats in power.
Because the Speaker doesn’t typically cast a vote, the New Democrats and Greens wanted Liberal Steve Thomson to remain in the chair, but he resigned shortly after the non-confidence motion passed. If a Liberal doesn’t serve as Speaker, votes in the house are destined to end in 43-43 ties, making an NDP government unstable.
On Wednesday, Clark said she was ready to tell Guichon the legislature can’t work, if the lieutenant-governor asks for her opinion.
Her comments prompted ridicule and heated exchanges in the legislature Thursday.
Questions directed at Clark were all similar: why are the Liberals more interested in forcing an election than letting a new government get to work.
Clark suggested Green party Leader Andrew Weaver lied when he told voters he would work with all politicians in the legislature.
“He wasn’t telling the truth about that then and he isn’t telling the truth about what he is saying today,” Clark said to applause from the Liberals.
After the Speaker’s intervention, Clark withdrew her statement.
Weaver said it was time for the Liberal members to move to the opposition benches.
“They are acting like belligerent children as they’re going into that time out.”