News / Vancouver

B.C. Liberals won't 'prop up' NDP government with a Speaker: De Jong

VANCOUVER — British Columbia Liberal House Leader Mike de Jong says it is not his party's responsibility to provide a Speaker in order to "prop up" an arrangement between the NDP and Greens.

New Democrat Leader John Horgan has suggested that if his party were to form a minority government with the support of the Greens, a Liberal Speaker could remain in the seat to avoid tie votes in the legislature.

De Jong said outside the Vancouver cabinet offices Thursday that the request is "bizarre" and signals a sense of desperation from the opposition.

He said he thinks the NDP and Greens are now realizing how unstable a government would be if they go ahead with plans to vote out the Liberals in a confidence motion.

"The practical workability of that agreement is very much in doubt," he said.

No party won a majority of seats in the 87-member legislature in last month's election. Because the Liberals won the most seats, at 43, the party gets the first chance at forming government.

The New Democrats won 41 seats, while the Greens took three, and the two parties reached an agreement to work together in a minority government.

If another election is called because the government fails, de Jong said it would stem from the instability created by the NDP-Green agreement.

At a news conference in Victoria, Green Leader Andrew Weaver said a Speaker is supposed to be an independent officer of the legislature and de Jong's assertions that the Speaker would either help or hinder a governing party is an example of the Liberals' political games.

Weaver said the Liberals are creating a "distraction" by raising issue with who should fill the role in a transition government.

"This is nothing more than to work the people of British Columbia in to a tizzy about a non-existent crisis. The whole issue of the Speaker is irrelevant," he said. 

De Jong also denied Horgan and Weaver's claims that the Liberals are dragging their feet to reconvene the legislature, saying the session is beginning early compared with other May elections.

He noted that two weeks were needed to recount votes for close ridings and confirm which party formed government. 

Once a Speaker is selected, de Jong said a priority will be to deliver the throne speech, followed by the required debate before the expected confidence vote for the Liberal government.

But Weaver said there's no reason why a vote couldn't be held the day after the throne speech is delivered.

"This is all about the deliberate political ploy to distract and delay from the inevitable. It's a government desperate to hold on to power it has lost," he said.

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