Clark departure stabilizes NDP government … for now

Like most pundits, and most of cabinet by the looks of it, I was surprised at Christy Clark’s sudden resignation Friday.

The timing of it was more surprising than the fact that Clark stepped down as Liberal Party leader and as MLA for Kelowna-Westside. The May 9 election result pretty much solidified the fact that Clark’s time at the helm of the Liberals was limited.

In the two months following that she clung to power, some might say desperately. In addition, she made it clear that she wanted to go back to the polls, even though she didn’t want to be seen as the one who might force another election just weeks after the previous one.

That led me to think Clark and the Liberals would head into the fall session hell-bent on toppling the NDP-Green coalition. I had the feeling they were going to go at the NDP/Greens hard with the hope of going back to the polls sooner rather than later. If they couldn’t force another election this fall, then they would start clearing house. I was obviously wrong.

Clark, who would be very tough on the NDP in opposition, decided that’s not what she wanted. It’s actually a smart move for her because she goes out on her own terms. Waiting for the long knives to come out and then succumbing to them isn’t good for anyone.

After her infamous throne speech flip-flop failure, it was obvious that the Liberals were destined to sit in opposition.

The irony of her departure is that is provides some much-needed stability for the incoming NDP government. The NDP/Green alliance now has a scant two-seat majority in the legislature. Doesn’t sound like much, but it’s a 100 per cent improvement over what they had before Clark’s departure.

After weeks of endless debate about the speaker’s role and how the legislature would operate after the NDP named a speaker, which would create a virtual tie between the NDP/Greens and the Liberals, the argument is now moot … at least for a little while.

Once Clark resigns her seat, the NDP will be able to maintain a one-vote majority in the legislature, even after naming a speaker. Horgan can wait up to six months before calling a by-election to replace Clark. That means he can wait until the new government gets through the fall sitting before calling a by-election that will, in all likelihood, re-instate the tie in the Legislature. It’s not a lot, but it’s a little bit of breathing room.

The other issue is that the leaderless Liberals won’t want to head to the polls until they get a new leader in place and until that new leader establishes themselves. In other words, Clark’s departure means the Liberals aren’t going to want to topple the NDP/Green coalition for at least a year.

So the shakiest of governments becomes a little more stable, thanks to the one who was shaking it the hardest.

The NDP/Green coalition will be around for a little while … unless, of course Green Party leader Andrew Weaver or maybe even Premier John Horgan, think there is an electoral opportunity with the Liberals leaderless.