VICTORIA — The NDP will form a minority government in British Columbia after the Liberals were defeated Thursday in a non-confidence vote in the legislature, sending them to the Opposition benches for the first time in 16 years.
Premier-designate John Horgan emerged from a meeting with Lt.-Gov. Judith Guichon to say he was asked to form a government after reaching a deal with the Green party on a legislative agenda.
Horgan, 57, had a wide smile on his face, his supporters erupting into cheers as he announced he believes he can command the confidence of the house.
It's been more than seven weeks since the provincial election and asked about the moment, he said: "It's been a roller coaster."
Horgan said Guichon wanted assurances that the continuity of the legislature will continue.
"I assured her I would do my level best to make sure that continuity continues," he said.
"It's been a roller coaster."John Horgan, B.C. Premier-designate
Horgan said his first priorities will be helping the softwood industry after the U.S. slapped punitive tariffs on lumber, the opioid overdose crisis and boosting resources for the education system before the start of the next school year to comply with a Supreme Court of Canada ruling.
'We want to make sure that the services people count on are there for them when they need it," he said. "We want to make sure, most importantly, that we continue to grow as a dynamic, diverse province, the envy of Canada."
He couldn't say precisely when the NDP will be able to swear-in a cabinet and begin the task of governing, but indicated he wants to act quickly.
His fledgling government faces hurdles because even with the support of the three Green members of the legislature, the NDP can only count on 44 votes in the 87-seat assembly, putting them in a precarious position.
No members of the legislature broke ranks as the Greens supported the New Democrats' non-confidence motion to defeat Premier Christy Clark's government.
The Liberals lost the vote 44-42.
What happens now will be up to Lt.-Gov Judith Guichon, who has to decide whether to allow NDP Leader John Horgan to try to form a government or dissolve the legislature, prompting an election.
Clark arrived at the lieutenant-governor's official residence shortly after the vote to meet with Guichon.
Clark, whose Liberals have held power for 16 years, made an impassioned plea to members of the legislature to support her government.
Liberal throne speech borrowed from Green, NDP platforms
In a bid to remain in power, the Liberals adopted NDP and Green promises from last month's election in their throne speech including higher social assistance rates, banning corporate, union and third-party donations to political parties, spending more on childcare and increasing the carbon tax.
"When we go into political combat we all acknowledge that sometimes we spend so much time fighting with one another in here that it's hard to listen to what British Columbians want. And the throne speech is an answer to that," she said.
"It's an answer to what voters told us on May 9. It's an acknowledgment, a sincere acknowledgment, that we didn't get it right. It is an expression of renewed priorities based on what voters told us, including that they want us to work across party lines with one another."
But the opposition parties signalled from the outset they had no intention of backing the Liberals, defeating two measures they had supported during the election.
Earlier on HuffPost:
The work of government has been in limbo for almost two months since the Liberals won a minority government with 43 members in the 87-seat legislature.
After the election, the NDP, with 41 seats, and the Greens, with three seats, signed an agreement to defeat the Liberals in a bid to put the New Democrats in power.
Because the Speaker doesn't typically cast a vote, the NDP-Green deal would work more easily if a Liberal agrees to serve in the position. Otherwise votes are destined to end in 43-43 ties, making an NDP government unstable.
On Wednesday, Clark said she was ready to tell Guichon the legislature can't work, if the lieutenant-governor asks for her opinion.
Last day in legislature got heated
Her comments prompted ridicule and heated exchanges in the legislature Thursday.
Questions directed at Clark were all similar: why are the Liberals more interested in forcing an election than letting a new government get to work.
Clark suggested Green party Leader Andrew Weaver lied when he told voters he would work with all politicians in the legislature.
"He wasn't telling the truth about that then and he isn't telling the truth about what he is saying today,'' Clark said to applause from the Liberals.
After the Speaker's intervention, Clark withdrew her statement.
Weaver said it was time for the Liberal members to move to the opposition benches.
"They are acting like belligerent children as they're going into that time out."