Could today spell the end of the B.C. Liberals’ hold on power?
The B.C. Liberals have led British Columbia for 5,839 days, but after Monday’s historic agreement between the NDP and Green Party their hold on government is as tenuous as it’s ever been.
“As the incumbent government, and the party with the most seats in the legislature, we have a responsibility to carefully consider our next steps,” Premier Christy Clark said in a statement shortly after John Horgan and Andrew Weaver ended their joint news conference outlining their pact.
“I will consult on those steps with the newly elected B.C. Liberal caucus and have more to say tomorrow.”
It’s now tomorrow.
Christy Clark does have the option of going to Lt.-Gov. Judith Guichon, telling her she no longer has the confidence of the legislature and resigning as B.C.’s 35th premier.
But a close read of Clark’s history suggests that’s unlikely to happen.
‘I knew if I surrendered, it was over’
You just have to look back to before the 2013 election to get a sense that Clark is a political fighter.
She came into the 2011 B.C. Liberal leadership convention as an outsider, getting the support of just one MLA, but she was able to convince party members that she was the right person to become leader and premier.
In the coming years while struggling in the polls, her caucus — including many who supported her competitors in that leadership contest — started to question her leadership even before the election campaign.
In Clark’s biography, Behind the Smile, by Judi Tyabji, the premier described the run-up to the 2013 election as her darkest days in politics.
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“I had to survive, and our government had to survive the infighting. I would get up some days and think, OK, how am I going to get through the day? What’s going to happen today? OK, it’s going to be a really terrible day. And I would just say to myself, I’m not going to keep sitting here,” reads one passage in the book attributed to Clark.
“Every day I thought, I’m going to keep walking. I’m going to get up every day and put one foot in front of the other. I’m not going to stop moving, because I’m not going to surrender. I knew if I surrendered, it was over.”
Clark didn’t surrender and went on to claim a surprise victory in the 2013 election.
She’s survived, while most of the caucus that questioned her leadership have either quit politics or lost.
Has strong caucus support
That leaves Clark with a team of 41 MLAs mainly recruited by her, including high-profile cabinet ministers Todd Stone and Mike Bernier, along with a whole batch of newly elected MLAs that includes Ellis Ross and Tracy Redies.
These politicians should have Clark’s back as she attempts to put together a throne speech that could convince Green and NDP MLAs to break party ranks and support her.
And the premier threw out one last Hail Mary on Monday, just hours before her opponents reached a deal, sending out a message through social media platforms.
“I want to make sure any agreement we come to reflects what you want. Because we want to make sure we do do things differently in British Columbia,” said Clark in the video message. “A new deal, not for politicians or the legislature. A new deal for British Columbians.”
While Clark has talked about parties working together, she stayed out of negotiations with the Greens, while Horgan and Weaver engaged with one another and seemingly built a new respect for each other through the process.
However, Clark could get that “new deal” by convincing just one of the 41 NDP MLAs or three Green MLAs to support the throne speech.
Or, failing that, an inability by the NDP and Greens to find a Liberal to run as Speaker could cause enough legislature dysfunction that Guichon might agree to another election.
Today could be the end for Clark and the B.C. Liberals after 16 years of power. It could be the beginning of the end. Or it could be the most dramatic chapter in history of a premier who has defied the odds more than once.
Whatever the case, she has the next move.
“The ball is now in her court,” said UBC political scientist Max Cameron. “Does she resign? Does she try and go it alone?
“Once that decision is made, we’ll begin to see a new legislature formed.”
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