An extraordinary thing will happen in British Columbia today. The legislature will resume sitting for the first time since the spring election.
Now, normally, that wouldn’t be exceptional. But in B.C.’s case it is, because for the first time that I’m aware, the sworn-in premier will not be allowed to join her party in the legislature because she lost her seat in the last election and hasn’t yet won another seat.
It happens more and more often now that a newly anointed party leader doesn’t have a seat in the legislature. Christy Clark became premier in 2010 without yet having a seat. This is a disturbing development but one which has been going on for years. And naturally, it took an ardent right-wing free-marketeer, namely Clark, to take the decline of responsible government to its next step by deciding that even though she lost the election, she was going to be sworn in as premier anyways.
In a country filled with people deeply interested in the state of their democracy, such an extraordinary move would have been greeted with howls of protest. You’ll note that it wasn’t, in B.C. Indeed, perusing the news, I was unable to find any mention of the seriousness of this at all, beyond a few people who thought it was kind of a funny little quirk that you could somehow win the election but lose your seat.
Well, here’s a news flash: you can’t. She didn’t. In a country which is supposedly governed by the principles of responsible government as enshrined in the Westminster Parliamentary system, in what sense can someone who not only lacks a seat but has been removed from her seat by the only voters given a chance to cast their ballots for her, actually form a government?
And yet that is happening in B.C. Clark has already been sworn in as premier. Today, her caucus will meet (without her) in the legislature and pass a motion accepting the speech from the throne. That motion will be tantamount to — indeed, will be — their first vote of confidence for what is, at least at the moment, an unelected government led by someone rejected by the voters.
Barring a spectacular upset, this situation will be rectified next month when Clark runs in a by-election in what is widely considered to be a safe riding. And then everything will continue on as if nothing happened. But I think we should consider the implications here. By definition, a responsible government must be one which was elected by the voters. The premier of B.C. has, for the time being, been rejected by the voters. The B.C. legislature will shortly be approving the ministry of an unelected government.
Since we are allowing this precedent to stand, we are implying that it’s okay. So the next question becomes: exactly how long do we think it’s appropriate for an unelected government to stand in office? Two months? Six months? Indefinitely?
We’re on a slippery slope here, folks.Tweet