It’s getting late in the game for the B.C. Liberals to somehow out-compete the NDP in adding the three Green players’ bench strength to their power-roster.
B.C. Green leader Andrew Weaver is keeping us all guessing until the last minute about who will win that battle for government: Team Horgan’s Orange Crush or Team Clark’s Blue Meanies?
As things stand, one would think that with the overwhelming tide of public sentiment running against any form of B.C. Liberal-Green alliance, the governing party might be starting to feel a little desperate.
Yet so far, the mood from that camp seems to be one of eerie calm and unnerving confidence. For the most part, their quarterback, Christy Clark, is nowhere to be seen.
By Wednesday we will learn whether we should have read more into that seeming reality or not.
We will also learn just how far both Weaver’s Greens and Clark’s Liberals are perhaps prepared to go to further their own perceived best interests.
Certainly, Lt.-Gov. Judith Guichon has done little to add to Clark’s discomfort.
If anything, Madame Guichon’s recent public comments on that state of play seem to suggest a degree of confidence in the Clark government that John Horgan might rightly find unnerving.
Watch this short video and see if you don’t agree.
I found Guichon’s words to be not only surprising, but also too telling. And not at all helpful to the NDP’s bid for power at the negotiating table.
Whatever Her Honour’s honourable intentions surely were in making her candid remarks, her words would appear to reveal much about how she is inclined to use her prerogative. At least initially, in deciding the open question that is on everyone’s mind and lips: who will govern B.C.?
This is what Madame Guichon said [emphasis added]:
"There’s a lot of different possibilities. But what we know—what is fact—is, at the moment, Premier Christy Clark will form the government. And it’s quite likely that they will go in and start the session, and that a Throne Speech will be presented. And the Throne Speech, of course, is written by government to outline what they plan to do in that session.
"The Throne Speech might pass without anybody contesting it, and then a budget must be presented. That could perhaps be the more controversial act, would be the budget. The budget may contain things that make everybody happy. Perhaps we will have a new era. Perhaps everybody will work together to get the work done to run a great province. So it’s very hard to predict what will happen and I, like the rest of you, will be tuned in, to watch very carefully."
Those words might be a little alarming for those of us who had hoped and expected the LG would stay decidedly out of the fray until we learn what transpires from the parties’ negotiations.
I am sure she meant well and was just trying to be forthright.
I also think it would have been more prudent of her to make no such speculative comments about who will form the government. Not until after we learn what agreement, if any, the Greens might have reached with either party hoping to secure that right.
I am further baffled as to why Her Honour would speculate that a Throne Speech presented by a newly formed Clark government might pass without anybody contesting it. And I was struck by her implicit hope for a "new era" (no pun on the 2001 B.C. Liberal platform intended), predicated on a new B.C. Liberal government, under the current premier’s leadership.
Whether intended or not, her comments left me with the distinct impression that she hopes the new Clark government will not only have her blessing, as things stand, but that it will also survive its confidence votes on the "quite likely" Throne Speech and on the ensuing budget.
In that context, if I were Horgan or Weaver, I might feel some unintended pressure from the lieutenant-governor’s gentle nudging under that scenario for a legislature led by the current premier, where "everybody will work together."
Should we take that "optimism" as a sign of things to come? Perhaps based on whatever intelligence has been filtered back to Her Honour from the negotiating tables?
I hope to God, not.
Norman Spector's comments worth noting
On the surface, it adds new cause for concern about Weaver’s strategy and long game. Particularly in light of other recent comments made by his new consultant adviser on his negotiating team, Norman Spector.
Armchair quarterbacks of all political stripes might want to check out last Friday’s CBC "On the Island" political panel hosted by the superb Gregor Craigie. It is a weekly radio panel in which Spector and I both participate, along with former NDP cabinet minister Elizabeth Cull.
As many readers will know, among his many roles in government some decades ago, Spector served as Social Credit premier Bill Bennett’s chief of staff and subsequently, as Conservative prime minister Brian Mulroney’s top political staffer.
He is, of course, also a highly active Twitter participant. Through that medium he has showcased his considerable intellect, along with his personal affinity for Porsches. (Joking, Norman!) And he has amplified his well-earned reputation as one of Canada’s most astute political analysts.
Rarely do we see eye-to-eye in respect of our diametrically different views of Clark’s B.C. Liberal government, or of Big Oil projects like Kinder Morgan, the carbon tax, or the merits of proportional representation and direct democracy. But I’m sure he is a valuable asset to Weaver in helping him strike a better bargain from whomever he chooses to support.
Spector’s comments on Friday’s panel might just be strategic posturing, or they might be a hint of what we should expect. Either way, they are worth recalling, especially in light of the LG’s remarks.
Spector: "I’m staying with my election prediction, on this panel, that I see the more likely outcome as a minority government, in which the Greens support the NDP. But I do have to say that I see a path to an agreement with either party at this point, and I really don’t know how it’s going to end up."
Brown: "As I said last week, I’d be shocked if [an NDP-Green alliance] doesn’t happen. I think most British Columbians would be mortified if it doesn’t happen. And the real question is, what possible path could there be to form a majority government alliance with the Greens and the Liberals? Norman said that there’s a path available. I think that the only path that would be available would be for one side or the other—or both—to completely sell out everything they stand for, for power."
Spector to Brown: "When you’re analyzing politics, never analyze what you hope will happen; analyze what you think is going to happen."
If I take Spector at his word, he thinks an NDP-Green alliance is the "more likely outcome" of the negotiations in which he is so intimately immersed, on behalf of the Greens, whose platform he often critiqued along Liberal lines of attack.
If you know Spector, you know he likes to be right. And much as we agree on his most likely forecast, I can’t wait for him to say "I told you so" after all the dust settles.
I also still think that NDP-Green partnership is the most likely outcome of those negotiations that I have no inside knowledge about whatsoever.
Call it wishful thinking, or simply what I think should happen. That is, if Weaver truly has the interests of his party, its supporters, and all British Columbians at heart.
But Spector’s comments also oblige us to ask ourselves: what possible path to an agreement between the Greens and the B.C. Liberals, which Weaver might regard as a defensible compromise in furtherance of his campaign pledge, "change you can count on"?
My analyst’s answer to that question is a scenario that I actually do not think is going to happen, let alone hope will happen. It sure isn’t what should happen, which is mostly what I have been expounding upon on these pages.
Rather, it is a scenario that Charlie Smith has already largely postulated. I won’t repeat its main points. Nor will I discount its rationale.
Hard as that scenario would be for those of us who want the Greens to have no truck or trade with the governing Liberals to fathom and accept, it is one that I concede Weaver’s warriors might conceivably be drawn to. If only to justify an abhorrent decision that is so obviously rooted in perceived partisan self-interest.
Yet there is one other wildcard scenario that warrants consideration as a hypothetical path to a B.C. Liberal-Green agreement.
In football, it’s called the Hail Mary.
In the current political context, think of it as the B.C. Liberals’ ultimate Hail Christy—a long bomb that the Liberal caucus might be tempted to try, as a last-minute ploy to cling to power.
Might the B.C. Liberals be tempted to turf Clark, or convince her to "voluntarily" hang up her cleats, in a far-flung effort to gain the Greens’ active support?
Nothing says "change" like dumping your quarterback and promising to enlist a new leader who might be a better "team player" than the one who loved to put the boots to her mortal political enemies.
Nothing says "hope" like entering into a new game, arm-in-arm with those you swore were so evil, huddled-up as allies in a new partnership bound for change and glory.
As unsatisfactory as that would be, it would not be all that far-fetched to envision, were it not for the lieutenant-governor’s timely gift to Clark’s increasingly tenuous hold on power.
Yet imagine this happened.
Greens play dangerous game with Liberals
I suppose we should not read too much into the fact that Clark is not actually at the negotiating table, as her counterparts are.
Still, it is strange, isn’t it? Perhaps she is just above all that hard grunt work, on the front lines.
Imagine, though, the Liberal negotiators put Clark’s neck on the line, as a negotiating chip in its own right.
Imagine if they said, "Look, if she doesn’t quit and take one for the Gipper, we will bench her for good, and promise to put someone else in the premier’s office who will be forsworn to honour our commitments to you, Mr. Weaver."
Imagine if one of those commitments was to use that combined 46-seat majority to advance the likelihood of achieving proportional representation, through a process that is clearly going to take some time and might benefit from that added "stability"—Weaver’s new cause célèbre.
Heck, the process would wind up in exactly the same place as the NDP have proposed, with a referendum, Weaver might tell us all. But that extra "stability" the larger Liberal-Green majority affords might allow us to complete that process in time to implement PR before the next election.
I can hear Weaver now in his huddle: "I call that a win-win. You Liberals get to stay in government. We all get to keep our jobs for four years. And we Greens get to show all British Columbians how minority governments can work to effect desired change."
High-fives all round.
Except for this one inconvenient truth: it’s just bullshit. And morally repugnant.
Putting in a new Liberal premier would not give British Columbians the new government that some 60 percent of them voted for.
It would still involve the Greens utterly selling out their platform, their principles, and the public trust that was vested in them, whatever minor policy "wins" were promised.
It would involve them standing up to support the B.C. Liberals time and time again, in an ongoing statement of confidence in the only party that innately stands against all of those values the Greens purport to stand for.
It would involve the Greens rewarding the B.C. Liberals who stood firmly behind their discredited leader, in discrediting all of her party’s political opponents using fair means and foul.
Would Weaver really dare to reward the likes of Rich Coleman, or others on his team, who played such central roles in some of the biggest controversies the Greens have criticized?
LNG, Kinder Morgan, the war on climate action, the unscrupulous defence of Big Money, the Site C project, B.C. Hydro’s current debt and rate increase nightmare, the affordable housing crisis, the liquor price boondoggle, the B.C. Liberals’ defence of a campaign boss who is charged with criminal breach of trust—take your pick.
They all lead to the same doors in cabinet. And let’s just say, it would be more than a bit "Rich" for Andrew Weaver to lay that all exclusively at the feet of Clark.
The entire Liberal cabinet and caucus has to answer for its failings and transgressions, which only were perpetrated with their full support.
So, sure, a path to a Green-backed Liberal government might still be available to someone either deluded or dishonest enough to claim that a Clark-less cabinet is the change that voters counted on Weaver and Horgan to both deliver.
As I say, I don’t imagine that scenario is at all likely.
Still, it deserves to be outed, as an outside possibility, advanced in the name of "change" and "stability" by two parties that are wholly motivated by the raw pursuit of power.
Somewhere right now, deep in the heart of Liberal la-la land, there are likely phones ringing off the hook and more than a few tongues wagging.
There are backroom whispers galore about how this Hail Christy might be executed, either now or later, as a blood oath sworn to gain the Greens’ support. One that only the Greens might be dumb enough to take at face value, no matter what "deal" they think they might obtain, in black and white.
Clark might feel like she could be a hero by facilitating that transition, however much it would rot her socks.
God knows, she must have plenty people from the corporate community urging her to make that bold move "for the public good". Heck, for her own party’s good.
"Anyway", those large donors would say, "she had a good run and she won when no one thought it was possible."
And for that and so much more, the barons of Big Oil, mining, property development, and real estate might all be now quietly saying, "let’s make it worth her while to save our asses and give her a new dream job that’s befitting of her undoubtable skills. Andrew Weaver to our rescue!"
Stick with Plan A, I say, and don’t waiver, Weaver or Horgan.
B.C. needs you two to do what’s right and to put together the NDP-Green alliance that will really get things done, to deliver the change they really want.