BC “NDP and Greens celebrate a stunning political power play” as ex-Liberal Darryl Plecas takes speaker’s job

Sep 12th, 2017 | By | Category: In Brief

BC “Liberal MLA Darryl Plecas is escorted from the speaker's corridor to the legislative assembly after being elected speaker of the legislature in Victoria on Friday, Sept. 8, 2017. Photograph By CHAD HIPOLITO, The Canadian Press.”

You may not care much about Premier John Horgan’s government’s “first update on BC budget” – like finance minister Carole James herself.  You may also be thinking, like us, that the intriguing new NDP-Green alliance in BC provincial politics still looks too insecure to be of much broader Canadian significance.

We can only say we have ourselves at least started to think again after digesting  headlines like : “MLA Darryl Plecas shocks Liberals by taking job as Speaker” ; and “Liberal MLA Darryl Plecas becomes new Speaker … BC Liberal interim leader Rich Coleman calls Plecas’ move a ‘betrayal’.”

Rob Shaw has explained the crux of all this in the Vancouver Sun: “The ultimate impact of the move could be to lengthen the life of the minority NDP government, and give the New Democrats the necessary breathing room to pass legislation. With a Liberal in the job, the NDP can pass legislation without having to rely on the Speaker to break tie votes, a risk it faced if it had to appoint a NDP MLA as Speaker.”

Or as Mike Smyth at The Province has noted : “Plecas stunned his former Liberal colleagues on Friday by accepting the $150,000-a-year Speaker’s job, a shocking move that effectively handed the governing NDP-Green alliance an expanded, three-seat majority in the legislature.”

What some of we BC politics novices back east (well … north of the Great Lakes) are still wondering is who is former Liberal MLA Darryl Plecas (who is now Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, but also a victim [?] of “BC Liberals remove Darryl Plecas from party”)?

And what does his action mean for the thesis that Canada’s Pacific Province is moving towards the Australian model of parliamentary democratic political party development – where, after various twists and turns, the Liberals wind up as the effective conservative party on the right?

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Vancouver Canucks stars (and identical twins from Sweden) Henrik and Daniel Sedin, getting ready for their 16th NHL season, won’t play anywhere else but Vancouver.

Canada might already be said to have had a few brushes with this Australian model in provincial politics.

The leading case would seem to be Saskatchewan from, say, 1938 (when a 43-year-old John Diefenbaker led the provincial Conservatives to 0 seats in the Regina legislature, with less than 12% of the popular vote) to 1971 (when Ross Thatcher’s Liberals lost to a resurgent “agrarian socialist” Saskatchewan NDP under Allan Blakeney – and Mr. Thatcher himself died just 18 days after the election).

British Columbia itself, some would say, began to move to the Australian model almost definitively at some point after the 1979 BC election (the BC Liberal “party’s lowest point” – since Harlan Carey Brewster “was one of only two Liberals elected to the legislature” in 1909).

According to no less an authority than Wikipedia today’s “British Columbia Liberal Party (also referred to as the BC Liberals) is a centre-right provincial political party in British Columbia, Canada.”

Here as in Saskatchewan the rise of the old CCF ancestor of today’s NDP in the 1930s did finally put rightward pressures on the 1933-41 BC Liberal government of Premier Duff Patullo, who ran “on the slogan of ‘socialized capitalism’” in 1937.

Yet the most recent Campbell and Clark BC Liberal governments (2001—2017) have both managed to borrow some of the (itself shaky enough) progressive centre left patina cultivated so assiduously by the federal Liberal Party of Canada.

Most recently Premier Christy Clark and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau looked so much like two peas in a pod in photographs, that it was all too easy to (how foolishly?) imagine they might have vaguely similar political and economic philosophies as well.

And back some 16 years ago Gordon Campbell became BC’s “first Liberal premier in almost 50 years.”

From 1952 to 1991 the effective conservative party on the right in British Columbia was Social Credit. The Campbell Liberals seemed refreshingly different from all that. And they finally won 77 of 79 seats in the legislature in 2001!

Meanwhile, back east in the despised central Canadian heartland, “Karimah Westbrook attends a premiere for 'Suburbicon' on day 3 of the Toronto International Film Festival ... Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017 ... (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP).”

Returning to the late summer/early fall of 2017 a slender Wikipedia article on Darryl Plecas along with Mike Smyth’s September 9 report on “Darryl Plecas: Why I took the Speaker’s job” cast some light on the new Speaker of the BC legislature – and just what his latest career moves might mean for the longer future of the BC Liberals.

In Ontario we are also bound to wonder anew just what BC’s new “governing NDP-Green alliance” with its “expanded, three-seat majority in the legislature” might mean for our own provincial politics.

As in the broader fate of the BC Liberals, the answer at the moment seems still more intriguing than it did, say, at the start of last week – but also still not very clear at all …

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