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Andrew Weaver (left) and John Horgan (Photo: BCNDP/Flickr CC Licence)

Looking ahead at our political situation in BC and assuming that the NDP will govern with a one vote majority, perhaps it might be well to consider what that actually means.

An accepted authority is  HOUSE OF COMMONS PROCEDURE AND PRACTICE, edited by Robert Marleau and Camille Montpetit

This on “Confidence”:

What constitutes a question of confidence in the government varies with the circumstances. Confidence is not a matter of parliamentary procedure, nor is it something on which the Speaker can be asked to rule. It is generally acknowledged, however, that confidence motions may be:

explicitly worded motions which state, in express terms, that the House has, or has not, confidence in the government;

motions expressly declared by the government to be questions of confidence;

implicit motions of confidence, that is, motions traditionally deemed to be questions of confidence, such as motions for the granting of Supply (although not necessarily an individual item of Supply, motions concerning the budgetary policy of the government  and motions respecting the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne. (my emphasis)

What this does not mean is that every time the government loses a vote it must resign. That is plain fiction encouraged by the fact that when such a vote is lost, cries of “resign!” are shouted from the Opposition benches with enthusiasm but no justification.

Clearly the NDP government can, with good management and a bit of luck, govern for a considerable period of time without facing a substantial problem giving rise to a confidence vote.

Obviously, they can’t go far if the opposition nail them on their initial Speech from the Throne and they will soon face a Budget vote but it’s well to remember that with their majority, however small, they can probably weather the first two of these motions on the assumption that their members are healthy enough to live long enough for it. It’s also well to remember that the Opposition needs all its votes and Liberals, in spite of their evident beliefs to the contrary, are mortal too.

Making life difficult

Mr. Horgan faces a more imminent problem though – if the Liberals have any experts on rules of Procedure, they can make the operation of the House itself all the way from unpleasant to utter hell. Points of Order, questions of clarification, down to highly questionable objections can stall matters from hours unto days. Whether or not the Liberals pursue this tactic remains to be seen.

Confidence motions arise by operation of rule or custom more often than by actual motion. Still, the opposition will want to move with care. Like the rule for taking a drink of whisky, it’s not done every time it’s possible but, if the drinker is wise, a good drinker, he only takes one when the time is right. It’s called discipline. And so it is with confidence motions. It would not be unusual at all for the Liberal opposition to avoid a possible confidence situation because it is not in fact to their advantage at that point.

The Polls may be terrible. The most obvious reason for it not being the right time would be lack of money in the election kitty. Elections are very expensive and are taken with care if only on that basis. There is no doubt that the Liberals carry an advantage in that department but what if there are new funding reforms? This just may not be an appropriate time because the polls say that voters want to give the Horgan government a chance and the Liberals are faced with the ephemeral notion of fair play as an issue.

Of one thing you can be sure – politics is just one damned thing after another and accurate predictions as rare as hens’ teeth.

Cleaning up the Liberals’ fiscal mess

Horgan has a big problem to deal with and the Liberals will make the most of it. The elephant in the government Caucus Room is a chap named Dr. Andrew Weaver, ironically the man who is responsible for the NDP being in power. Now, folks, carefully follow the bouncing ball.

The deep-seated case with which the “right” traditionally taunt the NDP is that they are fiscally inept. They couldn’t run a peanut stand, they say. Every time the NDP has run the province it is stated, unemployment soared, capital fled to more welcome climes and the deficit exploded. This story goes back to my childhood days when it was their predecessor, the CCF, who were considered philosophically incapable of understanding money except that paid by hardworking people to welfare bums.

The records don’t confirm these right wing “truths”, but such matters are, without evidence, easily understood by the voter and very difficult to disprove. Well, it ought to be easy as pie to see how the Liberals behaved fiscally for the past 16 years.

The Campbell/Clark government has doubled the provincial debt – and on top of that, added to it a sum greater than the entire debt was when they took office.

The Campbell/Clark government has mismanaged ICBC – simply a cash-for-protection monopoly not much more complicated than the protection racket on the streets of New York City – into massive deficits.

But the clincher for the NDP is BC Hydro which, starting with Gordon Campbell’s private energy scheme in 2002, has been taken from one of the finest, most viable energy companies in the world to virtual bankruptcy during good economic times.

Don’t take my word for it, here’s  how acknowledged energy expert Arthur Caldicott puts it:

There’s no getting around the debt crisis. The Liberal government set BC Hydro on more than a decade of spending beyond its means, entering electricity purchase agreements it couldn’t pay for, and being unable to obtain the revenues it needed to meet its spending obligations. It was only following orders. A private company would have been bankrupt, and have liquidated its assets. Crown corporations have taxpayers to keep them afloat.” (Emphasis mine)

Under this new policy, the creation of this all new power was by Independent (private) Power Producers (IPP) who were permitted to destroy the rivers they used and be paid 3x what they were entitled to. Needless to say, these IPPs were or soon became generous donors to the BC Liberal Party.

Fixing the problem

There are, I’m sure you would agree, three immediate things to be done.

  1. Immediately appoint a Commission of Inquiry to examine all  aspects of this financial debacle at BC Hydro to report back to the Attorney-General any evidence of Crime.
  2. Immediately cancel Site C, with its entire undertaking subject to a Commission of Enquiry.
  3. Move BC Hydro back to supplying all power and eliminate all use of IPPs

The loss of BC Hydro takes the breath away. If the public has any rights left, it’s to know how this happened and apply the Deep Throat Watergate Rule – follow the money…

It goes without saying that the operating maxim  for the Enquiry is “let the chips fall where they may”.

The Weaver hitch

That last line has Mr. Horgan in deep trouble before he gets started because going back to Campbell’s private energy policy until now, BC Hydro’s purchase of private power has been consistently and enthusiastically supported by Dr. Andrew Weaver, leader of the Green Party of BC – John Horgan’s invaluable political partner. It’s been the huge cost of this power that has BC Hydro in all this trouble. To this day, Weaver, the environmentalist, refuses to show the slightest remorse for supporting policy that destroys rivers it uses along with its habitat, while enriching the politically powerful insider as it destroys the public’s power company!

And just how the Hell do you square that circle?

That, folks, is a pretty good example of what the phrase “Elephant in the Room” means.


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