New government set for Western Canadian province seen short-lived

VANCOUVER (Reuters) - A new left-leaning government has yet to take office in the Canadian province of British Columbia after a drawn-out vote recount, but speculation is mounting there may soon be a new election.

FILE PHOTO - British Columbia's Premier Christy Clark speaks to the media in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada on May 30, 2017. REUTERS/Ben Nelms/File Photo

With a fragile one-seat lead, the government set to be formed by a New Democrat-Green alliance could be sunk by a single lawmaker missing a crucial confidence vote due to unforeseen events.

The political limbo has created uncertainty for business in Canada’s third-most-populous province, notably for oil and gas projects such as Kinder Morgan Inc’s Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project, which the New Democrats (NDP) and Greens oppose.

“People are starting to clue in to the fact that this is quite likely an unworkable legislature,” said Hamish Telford, a political science professor at the University of the Fraser Valley.

The requirement for a neutral parliamentary speaker, who is likely to come from the alliance, could also endanger the fledgling government as it would reduce its seat count to a 43-43 tie with the Liberals.

Premier Christy Clark, whose Liberal Party lost its majority in a knife-edge election on May 9, has recalled the province’s legislature for this Thursday. Her government is expected to be defeated next Thursday in a no-confidence vote.

“It will be very tough to make (the government) last four years just from the serious probability of random events. All it takes is one by-election, one death in office,” said Richard Johnston, a political science professor at the University of British Columbia.

The Greens, with three seats, agreed last month to back the NDP government on all confidence measures, ousting the Liberals, who have governed British Columbia for 16 years. The provincial Liberals are unrelated to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s party of the same name.

Liberal government house leader Michael de Jong told CBC Television on Monday that his party would not put up a speaker to “prop up the other guys.”

The speaker is allowed to vote to break a tie, but repeated votes in favor of one party would undermine the impartiality of the role.

Rather than risk throwing the legislature into disrepute, the province’s lieutenant-governor could call another election.

At least two confidence votes, one on the Throne Speech, the party’s agenda for the parliamentary session, and another on a provincial budget, are to occur soon after an NDP government is installed.

Reporting by Nicole Mordant in Vancouver; Editing by Dan Grebler