Vaughn Palmer: Weaver uses minority muscle to negotiate with NDP

VICTORIA — As Andrew Weaver tells it, the power-sharing agreement with the New Democrats does not oblige the Greens to support every spending item in an NDP budget, just the overall budget itself.

The Green leader’s interpretation came to the fore this week after the NDP decision to leave out election promises of $10-a-day child care and a $400 renters grant from the budget update.

The exclusions were convenient for Finance Minister Carole James as she had used up all of the spending room in the budget keeping other NDP promises.

But when pressed for an explanation during the budget briefing Monday, she attributed the hold up on child care and the renters grant to ongoing talks with Weaver.

“Those are both commitments that we made during the election campaign,” she agreed. “And they’re also part of the discussion that we’re having with the Greens around the (power-sharing) agreement that’s in place.”

Next day, Weaver raised the stakes by declaring NDP campaign commitments to be irrelevant to the discussion.

“What the NDP promised in their election campaign is not really relevant to the situation today,” Weaver told reporters, “because we also promised things in our election campaign.”

Not to say differences couldn’t be sorted out. But they would have to be sorted out within the confines of the power-sharing agreement the New Democrats and Greens reached on May 29.

The official name is the confidence and supply agreement. The Greens agreed to vote for supply, meaning funding supplied to run government programs in the annual budget. The authority to spend is the main determinant of whether a government has the confidence of the house.

But the agreement placed some limitations on the Green party’s obligations to support the budget. The relevant passage being clause 5 in the first section: “While individual bills, including budget bills, will not be treated or designated as matters of confidence, the overall budgetary policy of the government, including moving to the committee of supply, will be treated as matters of confidence.”

Note, in reverse order, the double-edged implications.

The Greens will support the overall budgetary policy of the government, including the key vote that sends ministry spending estimates to committee of supply for line-by-line scrutiny and approval.

But in return the New Democrats agree not to designate individual pieces of legislation, including budget legislation, as matters of confidence. Those can presumably be amended or defeated without ending the life of the government.

Armed with that reading of …read more

Source:: Vancouver Sun – Politics

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