Opinion Column

Enough about the speaker: Get the B.C. legislature working again on life and death issues

By Bill Tieleman, News, Views, and Attitude – 24 hours

Green Party leader Andrew Weaver and NDP leader John Horgan shake hands at a ceremony to sign an agreement under which the two parties would cooperate to govern B.C. The signing took place in front of the combined caucuses of the two parties at the legislature in Victoria on Tuesday, May 30, 2017. (Rob Shaw/Postmedia Network)

Green Party leader Andrew Weaver and NDP leader John Horgan shake hands at a ceremony to sign an agreement under which the two parties would cooperate to govern B.C. The signing took place in front of the combined caucuses of the two parties at the legislature in Victoria on Tuesday, May 30, 2017. (Rob Shaw/Postmedia Network)

“We don’t need no badges!  I don’t have to show you any stinking badges!” Mexican bandit in Treasure of the Sierra Madre, 1948

Enough about the bloody speaker of the B.C. legislature, get on with it and get the place working again. We have life and death issues to fix.

Here’s what will happen: B.C. Liberal Premier Christy Clark will finally be defeated in a confidence vote that will likely come in July; the B.C. Liberal MLA who became speaker will quit – and a B.C. New Democrat MLA will be elected speaker.

And here’s what that the speaker should do: break every single 43-to-43 tie vote in the legislature by voting in favour of the B.C NDP government, backed by Green Party MLAs.

Because, get this straight B.C. Liberals, it’s still majority rules over and over. Period.

And it’s clear that voting to break ties is the speaker’s obligation to think otherwise is to deliberately misread parliamentary history.

“If the numbers in a division (a vote) are equal, the Speaker, who otherwise does not vote, must give the casting vote....he is at liberty to vote like any other Member, according to his conscience...,” says Erskine May’s definitive 1844 parliamentary practice guide.

The new NDP speaker will have campaigned on the NDP platform and signed the confidence-and-supply agreement with the B.C. Greens. So the new speaker will have a duty to vote to support that commitment to constituents and the province.

And thank goodness because there are literally life and death decisions to be made.

This month, we learned that four people are dying every day in B.C. from drug overdoses, 488 in the first four months, mostly due to fentanyl.

That will push the total death toll to 1,470 this year if nothing more is done more than 500 more fatalities than in 2016 and almost triple those in 2015.

And yet the B.C. Liberal government has failed miserably to deal with this disaster. It’s time for a new government to act and save hundreds of lives.

So to the pantomime premier and make-believe cabinet:  Accept the voters’ verdict and let the new government and speaker get to work on the agenda a majority of British Columbians support.

You had your 16-year chance. Now,  get the hell out of the way.

Bill Tieleman is a former NDP strategist. Read his blog at billtieleman.blogspot.com. Twitter: @BillTieleman.