Friday, March 22, 2013

WHAT IF: COULD THE NDP FORM THE OFFICIAL OPPOSITION IN THE HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY



I love playing with scenarios, predicting possible outcomes from potential events. 

Let’s face it, we all play some form of theoretical politics, what if this happens and the chain of events that would come into play.

The House of Assembly could be headed towards a monumental bit of political theater. 

History could be made if a couple of things happen that will force the Speaker to make a decision which would/could result in the most significant change in the political dynamic of  this province since Confederation.

Sometime very soon, the Liberals and the New Democrats will have exactly the same number of MHAs in the House of Assembly.  When the member for Cartwright-L'Anse au Clair abandons her seat to seek the Liberal nomination in the federal by-election the parties will have 5 members each.

On election night on October 11, 2011, the scenario of which party would form the Official Opposition in the event of a tie was kicked around. When the votes were all counted the Liberals squeaked out one seat more than the NDP, ending the speculation.

The NDP emerged with four more seats than they had going into the election and bested the Liberals by nearly 6% in terms of the percentage of the popular vote received.  As Maxwell Smart used to say, “missed it by that much!”

The title of Official Opposition brings with it nearly a million dollars in resources for salaries, research, travel and perks. The Official Opposition gets to chair the Public Accounts Committee. They also have much more influence in parliamentary matters such as question period. In fact they receive half a salary to assist the party’s house leader.

So besides the prestige of being the Official Opposition and the government in waiting, the resources (if utilized properly) give the party in that role a significant edge over the third party.

When the numbers are tied, the NDP should request that they be named the official opposition. They had the greater share of the popular vote, they are way ahead of the Liberals in the polls and their leader is the most popular in the land.

Fair is fair!

Or is it?

There are no standing orders or “official rules” to settle the matter. The Speaker will have to look at Parliamentary precedents for tied opposition parties and claims on the Official Oppositions. He will find two rulings in particular. One out of the New Brunswick’s Legislature and another from the House of Commons. If these cases are followed, the Liberals would remain the Official Opposition.

The Speaker alone will decide who should be the leader of the official opposition and all the resources that come with the role.

What if the NDP were to leapfrog the Liberals and become the party with the largest number of members in the House of Assembly?

The scenario is very possible. When the Cartwright-L'Anse au Clair seat is vacant there will be a tie. 

Independent MHA Tom Osborne is rumored to be considering joining the ranks of the NDP. If the Member for St. John’s South joins the caucus, the NDP will have 6 members to the Liberals 5.

They will have the second largest caucus in the House of Assembly making them entitled to the role of the Official Opposition. Osborne is the key to a political change of seismic proportion.

In this scenario, even if the Liberals retain the Cartwright-L'Anse au Clair seat in a future by-election, there will still be a tie, but the precedents will work in favor of the NDP staying put as the official opposition.

Interesting days ahead





2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Please say it isn't so. If the NDP with Michael get more seats than they got now God help us, they already act as if they are running the place.

Anonymous said...

Tom should run for mayor and win then shelia run for his seat and she be leader in waiting to run the NDP in 2015