B.C. Liberal MLA Steve Thomson of Kelowna-Mission was elected Speaker of the B.C. legislature Thursday to begin a historic session that will determine whether the NDP and B.C. Green Party take over as government or whether voters head back to the polls.
Thomson resigned as forests minister Wednesday evening to take on the new role. Aboriginal Relations Minister John Rustad has added responsibility for forests, lands and natural resource operations to his cabinet duties.
Premier Christy Clark has said the B.C. Liberals will put forward one of their 43 MLAs to stand as speaker, but if the 44 opposition MLA join forces to vote non-confidence in Thursday’s throne speech, it will be up to the new government to name its own speaker.
Elections to the speaker position, the referee of the legislature, are a secret ballot vote by all MLAs. In practice there is rarely more than one candidate put forward.
The throne speech sets out the government’s goals for a new session, and Clark has disclosed most of its highlights in advance, adopting main elements of the B.C. NDP platform. Wednesday she announced that the B.C. Liberals’ pre-election budget will be amended to include a $1 billion boost to child care, and the intention to create an anti-poverty plan, after a decade of she and former premier Gordon Campbell maintaining that the best anti-poverty plan is job creation.
On Monday Clark announced she wants to meet another key NDP demand, to ban corporate and union donations to political parties.
Social Development Minister Michelle Stilwell then announced a $100-a-month increase in temporary income assistance payments, another measure taken from the NDP platform in the May 9 election.
Whether the B.C. Liberal government survives long enough to implement any of these measures remains to be seen. Rules of the house require four days of debate before a confidence vote can begin, and the B.C. Liberals may extend that period by introducing legislation for debate.