Bob Simpson: Bringing down the B.C. Liberals now risks shutting down the government

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      The halls of the B.C. legislature and the press were abuzz yesterday with the possibility that the B.C. Liberals could face—and lose—a vote of nonconfidence when they table their budget next week. Gleefully fed by the NDP staff and house leader, the media were running around counting heads and calculating the odds. Twitter was filled with people calling for the government to fall because it had lost the “moral right” to govern.

      In a close head count like we have today, it’s really the four independent MLAs who will determine the outcome of any vote, not the Opposition. So much for those who claim that independents are merely voices in the wilderness.

      If we do end up with a close seat count after the next election, which some people are predicting, then this week stands as a good example of how much power independents and third-party MLAs can have in the house.

      Speculating about a government collapse might make for an interesting story, but be careful what you wish for. Here’s what this vote means.

      First, the vote everyone’s talking about is merely to allow first reading of the budget, meaning MLAs would be asked to vote down a budget they haven’t seen. Not exactly an informed decision by any measure.

      Second, regardless of the outcome, we were never going to actually vote on the budget this session. Pre-election budgets do not go through the full debate required to allow them to come to a vote. Suggesting that the government will be brought down on its budget vote is nonsensical.

      Third, and most importantly, bringing the government down on Tuesday by refusing to even look at the B.C. Liberals’ budget would mean we could go to the polls without passing the interim supply bill. What does that mean? It means those MLAs voting against the government would also be voting to shut down government.

      It means that, after March 31, the executive would have to obtain a special warrant to approve spending to ensure that government employees are paid, surgeries continue as planned, roads are maintained, and government agencies keep their doors open. (See Section 24 of the Financial Administration Act.)

      In short, this is the worst kind of U.S.-style partisan brinksmanship.

      While the B.C. Liberals and Premier Christy Clark may have lost their “moral right to govern” (and, frankly, the throne speech showed the B.C. Liberals don’t deserve a renewed mandate), we must not risk shutting the entire government down out of spite just so B.C.’s two main political parties can take their fight to the streets a few weeks earlier than scheduled. The B.C. Liberals will have to face the voters on May 14 anyway, so let’s try to do some governing until the legislature adjourns when the writ drops.

      I believe the Liberals will make sure they have the majority they need to say “Yea” to first reading of the budget next Tuesday, and that’s good for B.C. Both the B.C. Liberals and NDP will face the electorate soon enough, without the prospect of shutting down the entire government.

      What all of this posturing proves is that we absolutely must move the election date to the fall.  The independent MLAs have asked for this change to be made this session. The NDP has supported this request, and the B.C. Liberals who have responded have dismissed it, although multiple government members have supported this idea in the past.

      This is exactly the sort of reform we won’t be able to enact this session if the government falls next week.

      Bob Simpson is the independent MLA for Cariboo North.




      Feb 15, 2013 at 3:18pm

      Its time to throw the rotting lib gov out and get a fresh start.They have been in to long and didnt age well.

      Shut Down Government?

      Feb 15, 2013 at 4:13pm

      AND the legislature has sat for how many days? Looks to me like the libs went home a loooooong time ago. Turf the rotten, corrupt bas--rds out already!! Wait until the books are opened for public inspection when they lose the upcoming election. oh boy!

      Integrity Quest

      Feb 15, 2013 at 4:28pm

      While it's appreciated that you feel caution is required in order to protect the stability of the government, I am really concerned about your apparent position that a budget with no credibility whatsoever should nonetheless be accepted, even by its significant detractors solely in order to be able to keep the government in power until the May election (reference your article yesterday entitled "LNG snake oil for B.C.’s economic woes")

      The government's budget is the single most important legislative instrument in its "tool box". No one is saying that MLAs should be asked to vote down a budget they haven’t seen. By all means, there should not be a vote before a first reading. But once the budget is tabled, it needs to be voted on as quickly as possible. Whether or not this will result in a consequential non-confidence motion is an entirely different issue. If a vote will not ordinarily be taken during this session then I would certainly want to ask why not. The answer, it seems to me, would surely be that the Liberals have maneuvered the entire governmental process (by sitting for only 19 days in the last 9 months) so that it does not have to answer for its own budget prior to going into an election. The content of the Throne Speech would imply that this budget we are about to see read next week will be universally viewed as a monumental joke.

      What I would expect is that a sufficient number of MLAs, regardless of party affiliaation, would do the public the courtesy of forcing a vote during this session. Get to work. Tell us all out here what is going on. Where would independent MLAs stand on this budget? Where would Liberal MLAs stand? Where would NDP MLAs stand? The public needs to know what it's dealing with BEFORE the May election is held.

      What bothers me most about your article here today is that you might be saying you would not vote against this budget even if you vehemently disagree with it. I sincerely hope I have misinterpreted your intended message. Please contribute whatever you can manage to contribute in order to ensure our provincial legislature returns to some small semblance of order and sanity.


      Feb 15, 2013 at 5:13pm

      We are so frustrated by BC Liberals putting 25000 film industry workers out of work, because they refuse to allow for the usual foreign investment tax credit, and would rather see those jobs go to Ontario and Quebec. The film biz is clean & green and it brings 1.3 billion into BC every year, not to mention all the spin off spending. Shame on the BC government. Out Out Damn Spot!


      Feb 15, 2013 at 6:12pm

      Seriously Bob Simpson, this Liberal government needs to go ASAP, by whatever means that it takes. The people of BC are ready to revolt and will not stand for putting off an election until the fall. The incompetence and disregard for hard working taxpayers has to STOP.


      Feb 15, 2013 at 6:21pm

      Shutting down the Liberal government - any right wing government - for a few weeks is a small price to pay for getting rid of the corporate influence over our fragile democracy. Business should not be allowed to write our laws!

      Fox in a Hole

      Feb 15, 2013 at 8:29pm

      It's extremely disappointing to see Bob's name attached to this op-ed. This is the sort of thing I'd expect to see penned by a Liberal MLA who's more concerned with power, perks and pensions, than from an independent MLA.

      British Columbians are sick and tired of this corrupt government and they want change. They don't care if it's on May 14th or before then, but I can bet you they want it sooner rather than later.


      Feb 15, 2013 at 10:19pm

      I will say I agree 100% with Fox in a Hole. No truer words spoken.
      I have always liked Bob, as an independent now I am really wondering? Credibility will be lost if Bob just goes along with the charade. It's never alright to not do the right thing,and keep your honesty and integrity intact.


      Feb 15, 2013 at 10:53pm

      it would not be the first time in B.C. government history that there was the use of special warrants to ensure there were sufficient funds to run the government and it's services. when it happened previously the opposition cried but life went on. There is no reason the government can not fall, the proposed budget doesn't deserve to see day light, special warrants will do the trick and we can have an election asap.


      Feb 16, 2013 at 8:32am

      Which option is cheaper for the taxpayers? If letting the government derp around a couple months more saves money, then so be it.