Speculation a 2019 B.C. election is rampant because of the fragility of the NDP-Green alliance that forms the current government.
Don’t bet on it.
Even if the BC NDP loses the Nanaimo by-election and a 43-43 seat tie is produced for the legislature, do not expect a sudden vote.
Such a tie would make governing difficult, but not impossible. The government can only fall from power in a confidence vote and such a vote only happens once or twice a year.
If a tie occurs, the Speaker must vote with the government to ensure the legislative chamber continues to operate.
In addition, there is nothing stopping the NDP from changing a few of the “rules” of the legislative playbook to make life easier for them.
The current Speaker – independent MLA Darryl Plecas – is unpredictable to say the least. He has threatened to resign if the public does not agree with his take on why the legislature’s chief clerk and Sergeant-at-Arms were placed on administrative leave.
Plecas also seems to enjoy the trappings of his office and I would be surprised if he steps aside. Still, he is a wild card in any early election speculation (even if he did quit, he would sit as an Independent and would not likely be the one to take the government down).
And forget talk about possible recall campaigns against Plecas and Attorney-General David Eby. Like previous recall campaigns, they are doomed to failure, as the recall bar is set high in terms of the number of signatures required in a tight timeframe.
As for the B.C. Greens, can the party’s three MLAs be counted on to continuing to prop the NDP into power, having lost a disastrous referendum for them on electoral reform?
While it is true the Greens have little to show for accomplishments after partnering with the NDP (in fact, the list of the NDP’s rejection of Green policies is a long one: completing Site C, bringing the LNG industry to the province), I do not see any of the three bolting from their deal.
Two other factors are on the horizon, likely guaranteeing no 2019 election.
The pensions for a number of MLAs on all sides of the legislature are vested on June 1. If they stop being an MLA before then (which happens when an election writ is dropped), then bye-bye pensions.
Secondly, all political parties get generous taxpayer subsidies now to run their affairs. The BC Liberals are looking at picking up nearly $1 million on July 1. I cannot see the party turning its back on that cash by forcing a spring election for any reason.
Now, an election next year? That seems more plausible (though still unlikely).
Keith Baldrey is chief political reporter for Global BC.