BC NDP almost caught off-guard with its razor-thin margin

The legislature is now in its two-week Easter recess and the break could not have come at a better time considering the oddities that characterized the session’s first half.

First, a snap confidence vote caught the BC NDP by surprise and it was almost defeated. Such a defeat would have been embarrassing, but not fatal, as another confidence vote would have been quickly convened once enough NDP members were in their seats.

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Still, the episode showed how thin the NDP’s majority is on any given day and how the governing side has to constantly be on guard for any accidents.

Second, the precariousness of that ruling majority was again exposed when the NDP actually did lose a vote – courtesy of its comrades-in-arms, the Green caucus.

The Greens called for a “division vote” – requiring MLAs to stand and be counted on the record - on a BC Liberal-sponsored amendment to the LNG legislation.

After demanding such a vote, however, the three Green MLAs promptly exited the legislative chamber, leaving behind a tied house. The presiding chair (BC Liberal MLA Joan Isaacs) defied convention and tradition and voted for the BC Liberal amendment, thus defeating the NDP’s position.

Next came the so-called “right to bare arms” fiasco when a legislature hallway officer decided to enforce what few people actually knew even existed - a dress code for women who enter the Speaker’s corridor.

Men have long been required to wear a jacket and a tie if they need to be in the corridor for any reason. However, the requirements for women have always been less well-defined.

On this day, a senior female government staff person was ordered out of the corridor because she wore a sleeveless top. Also told to leave were a couple of other women wearing similar styles of tops.

The next day a number of women – political staffers and press gallery women – defiantly wore sleeveless tops to work and showed up in the corridor, defying the hallway staff to do anything about it.

It all ended with a new dress code that essentially allows women to wear “professional attire,” the meaning of which is determined by them.

Finally, just before the Easter break, Speaker Darryl Plecas tried (or so it seems) to ban the time-honored practice of “heckling” during question period. He apparently thinks the din of noise and occasional unruly behavior during QP is rude. Question Period is a 30-minute exercise in attempted accountability and political theatre and, yes, people yell at each other.

We will see where this goes – Plecas has become increasingly partisan as he continues to call BC Liberal MLAs to task while ignoring transgressions by NDP MLAs, so this is a mounting problem.

Whatever happens, you can be sure more oddities lie ahead.

Keith Baldrey is chief political correspondent for Global BC




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