Clark’s Resignation, Horgan’s Appointment, and Responsible Government In British Columbia

I took this photo in June 2013 when I visited Government House in Victoria. The grounds host an array of beautiful gardens, which Victoria’s mild oceanic climate sustains year round.

The Vote in the Legislative Assembly

At around 5:30 Pacific Daylight Time on 29 June 2017, the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia carried New Democratic Party leader John Horgan’s motion of non-confidence and thereby defeated the Clark Ministry, by a vote of 44 New Democratic and Green MLAs to 42 Liberal MLAs.[1]

2  Mr. Horgan to move in amendment, seconded by Ms. Furstenau —

Be it resolved that the motion “We, Her Majesty’s most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia in Session assembled, beg leave to thank Your Honour for the gracious Speech which Your Honour has addressed to us at the opening of the present Session,” be amended by adding the following:

“but Her Honour’s present government does not have the confidence of this House.” (MOVED.)[2]

In principle, Horgan’s amendment attaching a statement of non-confidence to the Address-in-Reply was redundant, because the Address-in-Reply to the Speech from the Throne  itself serves as a vote of confidence anyway. But whether the assembly votes against the motion to adopt the Address-in-Reply or votes in favour of an opposition amendment to the Address-in-Reply, the outcome remains the same: the assembly withdraws its confidence from the Ministry. The three Greens MLAs held up their end of the supply agreement and voted with the New Democrats.

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Posted in Caretaker Convention, Dissolution, Formation of Governments | 3 Comments

Some Discretion: On Dissolution and the Lieutenant Governor


Here are the general principles at play in dissolving legislatures and appointing premiers if Premier Clark’s ministry loses the confidence of the legislative assembly today. Continue reading

Posted in Appointment of PM, Crown (Powers and Office), Dissolution, Formation of Governments | 1 Comment

What The Conservative-DUP Agreement Says about Votes of Confidence Under the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act

Arlene Foster, leader of the Democratic Union Party, and Theresa May, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and leader of the Conservative and Unionist Party

The Conservative and Unionist Party and the Democratic Unionist Party have finally hammered out a supply agreement that would give May’s minority government a parliamentary majority.

You can read it here: Confidence and Supply Agreement between the Conservative Party and the DUP.

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Posted in Confidence Convention, Fixed-Date Elections, Formation of Governments | 2 Comments

The Politics of Prorogation in Canada

Sample for Upcoming Issue of The Dorchester Review

The Trudeau II government has confirmed that it will proceed with pushing through changes to the Standing Orders of the House of Commons pertaining to prorogation, as Aaron Wherry has reported.

I first prepared this piece in March, when the government first announced its discussion paper on reforming the Standing Orders but before the opposition filibustered the Procedure and House Affairs Committee. In any event, I had always focussed on the proposed reforms surrounding prorogation and not on the reforms to Question Period.

Most of the following piece will appear in volume 7, issue 1 of The Dorchester Review in a few weeks, but I have updated the manuscript now that we can examine the text of the motion for how precisely it will ask the House to amend the Standing Orders. 

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Posted in Crown (Powers and Office), Dorchester Review, Prorogation | 3 Comments

The Cabinet Manual and Votes of Confidence under the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act

The Cabinet Manual As Explanatory Guide

The Cabinet Manual: A Guide to Laws, Conventions, and Rules on the Operation of Government has proven its worth, both within Whitehall and amongst the wider British public. On 9 June, once the results of the general election had become clear, the Cabinet Manual prevented any confusion over the fact that the incumbent prime minister remains in office and has the right to test the confidence of a hung parliament, especially where the party still holds the plurality of seats.

The Cabinet Manual says:

Parliaments with no overall majority in the House of Commons

2.12 Where an election does not result in an overall majority for a single party, the incumbent government remains in office unless and until the Prime Minister tenders his or her resignation and the Government’s resignation to the Sovereign. An incumbent government is entitled to wait until the new Parliament has met to see if it can command the confidence of the House of Commons, but is expected to resign if it becomes clear that it is unlikely to be able to command that confidence and there is a clear alternative.

Gus O’Donnell, the former Cabinet Secretary who spearheaded the Cabinet Manual in 2009-2011, appeared on Channel Four’s coverage of Prime Minister May’s trip to the Palace, where she informed the Queen that she could continue in government and would like to test the confidence of the new parliament, and her subsequent speech outside Downing Street on 9 June.

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Posted in Confidence Convention, Constructive Non-Confidence, Fixed-Date Elections | 5 Comments