Premier Christy Clark’s government — as well as her leadership — has survived a crucial budget vote in the legislature.
The Liberals managed to muster enough members to the legislature to get a 45-38 vote in favour of the budget, which now proceeds to third reading.
Independent MLAs John Slater and Vicki Huntington voted with the Liberals.
The budget support vote was being billed as an endorsement of Clark’s embattled leadership during a particularly rough time leading up to the May 14 provincial election.
Clark’s Liberals have been rocked by the leaked release of a party strategy to court ethnic voters that has already resulted in the resignation of the premier’s former deputy chief of staff and the multiculturalism minister.
Liberal Kash Heed, who has been critical of the government’s ethnic strategy, was not in the legislature for the vote and stated family matters as the reason for his absence.
MLA Terry Lake said the outcome of Tuesday’s vote was not a foregone conclusion. Had it been defeated on second reading, the NDP was prepared to force a confidence vote and trigger an early election.
“But you see strong support for the budget and the premier,” Lake said. “The Opposition looked very disappointed across the floor.”
The budget will form part of the Liberal’s campaign platform. In the meantime, an interim supply bill will cover short-term expenditures.
“I think it’s the responsible thing to do, to control spending.”
The party’s draft multiculturalism strategy was about reaching out to ethnic minorities that often feel excluded from the political process, he said.
“I don’t think you can understate how important it is to do the right thing for the right reasons,” he said. “But that was a draft document. The plans was not implemented, but some of the comments in there were offensive.”
An official apology for past wrongs should not be exploited for political expediency, he said.
“We mustn’t forget, the people criticizing us in opposition are led by someone who was a chief of staff in the Premier’s Office and the culture there was anything but open,” Lake added, referring to the backdating of a memo by Adrian Dix in order to protect Glen Clark, who was premier at the time.
Tom Friedman, NDP candidate in Kamloops-South Thompson, said he doesn’t think the budget makes too much difference. People he meets while campaigning tell him they feel the fiscal plan is bogus.
“This is really a government out of control,” Friedman said. “They can’t meet the challenges they must meet for government to work. They seem to be staggering from one crisis to the next.”