Kamloops-South Thompson MLA Todd Stone sees a “fluid, unstable and dynamic time in B.C. politics” as he looks into the new year.
The B.C. Liberal MLA pointed to the Jan. 30 byelection in Nanaimo and the ongoing investigation involving the legislature staff members as two examples.
The fate of Premier John Horgan’s NDP government hangs in the balance with the byelection results. If the NDP loses the seat to the Liberals, the legislature would be tied at 43 seats each between the Liberals and the NDP-Green power-sharing alliance.
Speaker Darryl Plecas would need to break tie votes to decide on legislation, a situation that experts have said is untenable for the long term and would likely result in an early election.
Stone said if the Liberals win the byelection, there’s a high likelihood the NDP government will have a challenge surviving the spring session.
“We would have the votes to defeat the NDP on a lot of their legislation in committee stage. It would essentially render the government unable to function,” Stone said.
The byelection is necessary after former NDP MLA Leonard Krog stepped down to seek the city’s mayoral chair in last October’s civic election, which he won. Krog had been a four-time NDP MLA, coasting to consecutive wins in 2017, 2013, 2009 and 2005.
Nanaimo has long been an NDP riding, with the party owning the seat for all but one term since 1972. Only B.C. Liberal Mike Hunter interrupted the New Democrat streak by sitting as MLA between 2001 and 2005.
Byelection candidates are Green Michele Ney (daughter of the late Nanaimo mayor, Frank Ney, who served for 22 years and who was also Nanaimo’s Social Credit MLA from 1969 to 1972), Liberal Tony Harris and New Democrat Sheila Malcolmson. The B.C. Conservative Party said it will soon announce a candidate.
Clerk of the legislature Craig James and sergeant at arms Gary Lenz are being investigated by the RCMP after an informal inquiry was launched by Plecas 10 months ago. The pair were suspended with pay by a unanimous vote in the legislature in November when MLAs and the public learned of the police investigation.
The investigation by Plecas is the latest controversy surrounding his role as speaker. He was ejected from the B.C. Liberal party last summer after accepting an offer from the Greens and NDP to become speaker under their new power-sharing agreement.
“You have a growing scandal which seems to be enveloping the Speaker’s office and, of course, the NDP-Greens need Speaker Plecas to remain the Speaker or they may lose power, meaning we find ourselves in a provincial election,” Stone said. “And there will likely be a number of recall campaigns launched against a number of government MLAs, so who knows where we’re going to be a year from now, let alone three months from now.”
Plecas, who now sits as an independent, is expected to be targeted for a recall campaign by unhappy Liberals in his riding of Abbotsford South.
— with files from the Vancouver Sun