Month: June 2017

“May Selfish Pride Not Divide Us…”

I have never been sure if the Gods hear our prayers or even listen to them. I am sure that I, and my fellow humans, often hear prayers spoken, but all too rarely do we really listen to the words.
I felt that way Thursday afternoon when Rabbi Harry Brechner from the Congregation Emanu-El synagogue in Victoria opened the First Session of British Columbia’s 41st Parliament with the traditional prayer for guidance in forthcoming deliberations.
Some of his words echoed a prayer said every Saturday in his Victoria synagogue; others were from a prayer written by his predecessor Rabbi Victor Reinstein.
They are worth repeating, even reciting, but only if we hear what they are saying.
“Divine source, we call to you using many names that reflect our divine understanding of you and our individual and collective relationships with you. We ask on behalf of our great province of British Columbia – a shining place of beauty, goodness and abundance – to guide our provincial government in compassion.
“May selfish pride not divide us. May pride in one another unite us. Banish hatred, despair and cynicism that together we may work towards peace and harmony creating prosperity so that all who call British Columbia home may flourish.
“May we honour with humility those who first dwelled in this land and learn from them the sacredness of earth, sky and water. May we come to know the blessing of unity through diversity.
“Sacred source of life, in our rapidly changing and evolving world, we ask that you provide our leaders with clarity, compassion, strength, wisdom and resolve to ensure that British Columbia is an influence for good, a voice of conscience and a leader in seeking peace and justice.
Chazak ve’ematz – Strength and courage. Amen.”
A long list of attributes for legislators old and new to seek. Banishment of hatred, cynicism, and the conversion of selfish pride to pride in one another. Not impossible goals with or without divine guidance – but a tough learning curve for a legislature steeped more in the desire to harm those with different beliefs than in the desire to embrace compassion, peace and harmony.
Premier Christy Clark’s Throne Speech – read by Lieutenant Governor Judith Guichon following the Rabbi’s prayer – was, as forecast over the past two weeks, loaded with promises of benefits, including two or three NDP-Green favourites. The new alliance has indicated it will have no difficulty in voting against those inclusions as outlined by Clark’s Liberals when it moves its anticipated non-confidence vote to end her life as premier.
Last week I forecast that the House – having missed a mandatory deadline for framing an agenda for a Private Members’ day Monday June 26 – would adjourn until Tuesday the 27th then miss a second Monday Member’s day July 3 courtesy of the Canada Day long weekend.
However, at the conclusion of Thursday’s sitting the government tabled a motion that adjusted the mandatory agenda deadline to all allow for Private Member’s Day on the 26th. The government motion was unanimously approved thus inadvertently maintaining my reputation as a less than reliable political events forecaster. Such a minor setback will not deter me from future prognostications carefully disguised as questions as our ping-pong “who’s in charge” contest continues.
Like, will Christy Clark – tied to the railway track as the NDP express with its Green baggage car threatens dismemberment – rejoice in last minute salvation? If she survives pending disaster, will she proceed with her spending program challenging the Opposition to deny the people the benefits they have earned?
Or, if she is retired from the premiership, will Ms. Christy regret she didn’t shovel money off the back of the truck sooner?
Then, will the new Premier John Horgan launch his brand new government with a throne speech equal or even better in spending promises than his predecessor’s? In addition, if he does, will he remember to say his big spending was made possible by the Liberal’s often parsimonious spending that balanced budgets for years and stashed the fortune the NDP could spend at will?
What will Andrew Weaver’s role be if Clark retains premiership? A reliable, articulate critic? And if Horgan takes over? Future unknown, but as even the most amicable coalitions can have only one leader, and Mr. Weaver doesn’t have a reputation for enjoying the game of tag-along, it would be unwise to make large bets.
Talking of bets, it would be wonderful to wager that our newly assembled legislators heard and listened to Rabbi Brechner’s prayer and will surrender to divine or human guidance. I fear the distrust, and the lust for power, among politicians worldwide is too entrenched to be eliminated in one precariously balanced BC parliament.
And, I would love nothing better than to be proved wrong – again.

The Brass Ring Proves Hard To Grasp

As we have stumbled toward the June 22 witching hour to watch the final dramatic act in our May 9 Political Passion Play there has been a faint hope that election rhetoric might be replaced by confidence-building debate and modest courtesies.

Alas, the three parties emerging from the fray have done so in full battle mode with the Liberals waving the Orders Of The Day (the BC Parliamentary Procedure rule book); the New Democrats, who came in second at the polls, crying foul before the curtain rises for the grand finale; and the tepid Greens meekly pledging their troth and offering three Legislature seats as a dowry to the NDP.

Premier Christy Clark has insisted that although Andrew Weaver’s hasty NDP marriage announcement could cost her the right to govern, she would “not go gentle into that goodnight.” She would depart, but only when a majority of MLAs told her they no longer had confidence in her ability to govern and she had reported that decision to the Lieutenant Governor.

John Horgan has protested she is unfairly delaying her departure just to keep him sitting in the waiting room when he should sitting in the premier’s chair. Although Christy’s Liberals defeated Horgan’s NDP 43-41 in the big contest, Weaver’s grinning addition of three Greens has given Horgan his now oft-repeated claim of overwhelming victory. Actually, he doesn’t really claim victory; just that Premier Clark was overwhelmingly defeated.

His latest whine about his political opposition is the claim that attempts are already being made to sow seeds of division between the Green and New Democrat leaders. They are united, Horgan says, and will stay united – a pledge well known and profitably enjoyed by millions of divorce lawyers. We shall watch with interest the history of the Green-NDP marriage of ideals with the first test coming up in the days following the Throne Speech.

The Legislature sits on Thursday, June 22, with the first order of business being the election of a Speaker who will preside over the Throne Speech debate and the anticipated demise of the Liberal government. It’s a moment Horgan and Weaver are looking forward to – albeit perhaps prematurely – with unrestrained and sometimes unseemly delight.

They would welcome a Liberal Speaker and the modest – but not overwhelming – vote-cushion his/her appointment would bring. But, they would want that in-House election to continue when the NDP formally became government. Liberal House Leader and Minister of Finance Mike de Jong has dismissed Horgan’s suggestion saying it is “bizarre” to suggest the newly-defeated government should voluntarily gift the NDP-Greens the non-voting Speaker’s seat and reduce Liberal MLAs by one.

Once again, we shall have to wait while they get that sorted and the time-limited Throne Debate “which shall not exceed six sitting days comprising not less than eight sittings” can commence.

The mover and seconder of the Throne Speech debate are allowed 40 minutes each to make their presentation; the Premier “or a designated member” follows with a two-hour speech time limit. The same two-hour speech limit is extended to “leaders of recognized opposition parties” which would appear to exclude Weaver whose Green’s are expecting, but do not yet hold, designated party status. It could produce a little bump in the road when Weaver takes his turn after the big guys speak and floor is open to anyone recognized by The Speaker – with a 30-minute time limit.

Amendments and sub-amendments can be made and voted on but defeat of a government amendment is not regarded as a non-confidence vote. That opportunity doesn’t arise until “the main motion is disposed of on the sixth day.” So, does all that jabberwocky add up to a final decision on who runs the province for the next four years on June 28 – six days after kick-off.

Could be, but a few legitimate house rule technicalities including the hassle to get a Speaker in place, plus cancellation of two Members’ Days sittings could disrupt the timetable. In the rule book Monday is the designated day when private member’s bills can be introduced and  possibly provide a first opportunity for a non-confidence motion to be called. But the rule book states a detailed content agenda for Member’s Day must be prepared and printed for distribution on the Wednesday before the Monday sitting. As the Legislature is reconvening on a Thursday that means no agenda for the following Monday, June 26. No agenda, no meeting. The next Monday would be July 3 — but that’s a national Canada Day holiday. Nothing to despair about. Just the need for a little more patience while listening to yet more complaints from the newly united NDP-Greens leaders reaching for the brass ring of power but finding it a little slippery to grasp.

And before you ask “who writes these rules?” — the members of the legislature write them, amend them from time to time, but insist they be strictly oberved once they’re in the book.

It could take until July to clear the air – or even longer if the electorate is asked to take another attempt provide a clear cut decision at the ballot box on whom we best trust to be in charge as we travel through troubled times.


“When Two Men Ride a Horse – One Must Ride Behind”

(with changes to orignal final paragraphs)

There’s an old proverb: “When two men ride a horse, one must ride behind.”  Green Party leader Andrew Weaver should have it framed and prominently displayed in his office as a constant reminder of where he sits on NDP Leader John Horgan’s political mount.

It’s right behind Horgan who controls the animal and has a tendency to pull hard on the bit when his temper’s on edge. Weaver may feel comfortable, but he shouldn’t. He’s just along for the ride and has no idea where it’s heading or whether it will be at cautious trot or reckless gallop when dismount could be hazardous.

He should be having some concern already, although the tandem riders have barely started on their single common-cause mission to bring down the Liberal government as soon as possible after the Legislature convenes on June 22.

Rider Horgan was in full skimble-skamble style a few days ago when my local newspaper quoted him chanting his favourite riding song since the May 9 vote when, as the Horgan song goes, the electorate “voted overwhelmingly to replace” Christy Clark and the Liberal government.

If a 43-seat victory was “overwhelming rejection” for Clark, what would you call 41 for Horgan’s NDP and three for Weaver’s Greens?

Both riders on the Horgan-Weaver hybrid would better spend their time figuring out what they’re going to do if Premier Clark hobbles their horse in the Throne Speech on the 22nd. That’s the speech and following debate Horgan and Weaver can’t wait to end to enable them to dramatically move their non-confidence motion and topple the Liberals.

I wonder if they’re rehearsing that dramatic moment with Horgan making the motion and Weaver obediently seconding it from the rump? And, I wonder if they’re considering what could go wrong to spoil the day when three MLAs fire one government and replace it with another?

Let me offer one scenario. Christy Clark, love her or hate her, is tough. She’s one of those women described by Shakespeare: “Though she be but little, she is fierce.” She is also astutely clever politically.

A Throne Speech is traditionally a government’s shopping list for the next year and beyond. While read by the Lieutenant Governor, it is a government promissory note. Consider the position of jockey Horgan and easy rider Weaver if the June 22 Throne Speech is jammed with good things – including more than a few long coveted by NDP and Greens.

That they would scream foul is a given – but would they vote against programs and policies long demanded and now within reach? Could they be faced with a Throne Speech and following Budget it would be political suicide to reject? Could the mount they are both riding collapse under the weight of their expansive sometimes arrogant egos as the back-seat rider becomes aware how uncomfortable his position has become even before they cross the finish line?

We shall find out on June 22 or a few debate days later. While waiting, it might be wise for Weaver to consider returning to his well trusted, balanced and dependable Green riding colours horse to ride into the future – and for Horgan to seek another windmill at which to tilt if things go south.

Is The Tail Wagging The Dog?

Let’s see if I get this straight. In British Columbia, the golden Canadian province with mountains ranging from sea to sky, valleys rich in rivers, lakes, food and fodder production and beauty beyond compare, we seem to have marched our paradise into a strange form of democratic limbo.

While others rejoice in final election vote counts, I, always feckless when dealing with numbers, fret. I’m trying to understand how the political party winning the most seats (43) in our May 9 general election can be delegated to official Opposition in the new legislative assembly while the party with two less seats (41) supported by a rump party with only three seats is standing by waiting to be proclaimed government for the next four years.

I understand the minority arithmetic – 41 plus three is 44, which is one numeral higher than 43 and the magic number required to capture the right to govern. But, is it democracy at work when the party with only three seats can actually ‘elect’ a second-place finisher rejected by voters in 43 ridings?

I’m not saying that Andrew Weaver and his ‘band of two’ broke any rules when they decided New Democrats would be more comfortable bedfellows than the Liberals. Rather, I just think he let his unexpected power overrule his well-earned reputation for thoughtful decision making. His delight when he and his two Green colleagues signed the 2017 Confidence and Supply Agreement – endorsing the NDP’s right to govern and deliver peace and wise government in the Legislature – was not reassuring.

Am I suggesting he would have been better advised to have pledged his support to the Liberals, keeping them in power? Not at all. I just think he would have been wiser to have spent a little more time reflecting on the influence he and his two MLAs could have held as arbiters between Liberals and NDP in the debating chamber. The Green influence in that role, calling for reason to replace the raucous decibel level that has been the legislative norm for far too many years, could have brought desired stability and peace more surely than the 10 sheets of paper comprising the flimsy “peace in our time” treaty.

While we wait for final transition timing and outcome, we can remember a forecast made in this space just a short while ago – we are in for tough times and none tougher than for the MLAs charged with governance. John Horgan’s New Democrats with his newly recruited Green support hold a one seat majority reduced to a 43-43 seat tie with the election of a Speaker from NDP or Green ranks.

We can expect a flurry of tied votes resolved by the Speaker’s tie breaker with nerve wracking – for the government – moments when there could be a hesitant twinge of conscience as the Greens consider a vote in favour of an expenditure they’re not entirely happy with. They have pledged to support the NDP when money bills are debated. Four years of budget support with the NDP’s proclivity to spend could prove too long for Andrew Weaver to keep his powder dry.

Of course, he may never need to fire a fatal shot at such a fragile government. When soon to be called “Premier Horgan” gets around to naming his cabinet, there will be much rejoicing among those selected. But, we can also anticipate that seeds of dissention will sprout amongst some of those rejected after having served long and well in the lean years.

Crossing the floor – switching from one party to another or choosing to sit as an independent, is not unknown in BC. It would take only two dissenters to shatter the NDP dream and leave the Green’s thinking how much wiser it would have been to stand fast, divorced from the big guys; independent, proud in policy and modest in the way they used the powers fate had granted.

In the next election, which surely will be much less than four years away, Mr. Weaver could find the electorate a little less understanding of his hasty embrace of an erstwhile political rival than he anticipated. He should never forget Disraeli’s advice to politicians that “all power is a trust; that we are accountable for the exercise; that from the people and for the people all springs….”

The day of accounting could come sooner than he thinks.