By the time B.C. Premier Christy Clark arrived at the official residence of the province's Lieutenant-Governor having just lost a confidence vote, Judith Guichon had largely made up her mind about what to do next. The weight of constitutional conventions was so great that she felt she had little choice but to call on the New Democrats to take power.
The Premier was hopeful, according to a member of her staff, but cognizant that what she said at this meeting would shape a significant chapter in B.C. political history.
Ms. Guichon could have dissolved the legislature, triggering another vote, or called upon NDP Leader John Horgan to form government. But the Premier had publicly acknowledged that "no one wants another election," and said she would not offer unsolicited advice.
Ms. Clark entered the official residence around 6 p.m. and met with six Liberal staffers who awaited her, including her senior adviser, press secretary and communications director. She then entered the Lieutenant-Governor's private office alone.
Ms. Guichon had spent many weeks consulting with more than 30 experts from Canada as well as Britain and Australia – other Commonwealth countries that use the Westminster parliamentary system. These experts included viceregal counterparts, constitutional lawyers, legal experts and former MLAs.
By the time Ms. Clark arrived at Government House, according to an official familiar with the Lieutenant-Governor's deliberations, Ms. Guichon had largely made up her mind: Constitutional convention dictated that she should see if another party could realistically form a government before calling for an election. But some variables remained, and Ms. Guichon needed to hear from Ms. Clark and Mr. Horgan.
What was expected to be a 15 or 20-minute meeting with Ms. Clark stretched to 50. Ms. Guichon stated bluntly that Ms. Clark had two options: ask for dissolution of the newly elected Legislative Assembly or provide advice on other options.
Ms. Clark has confirmed that she then offered her resignation and asked for dissolution because she felt an NDP government supported by an alliance with the Green Party was too risky.
"I told her that, I talked to her about that, and when it became clear that I needed to ask for dissolution … I asked for dissolution," she said.
Ms. Guichon thanked Ms. Clark for her advice. Ms. Clark then left the office without a clear sense of what the decision would be, and reconvened with her staff in another room for about half an hour. Shortly before 7:30, she emerged from Government House to address media outside.
According to the official, Ms. Guichon watched a live-stream of Ms. Clark's media availability, paying close attention to what the Premier said – and did not say.
"The Lieutenant-Governor and I had a good, long conversation, as I think you can guess, given the amount of time we were there," Ms. Clark told reporters. "She has now retired to make her decision and I'm going to wait and respect her time to do that. When she has made that decision, and made that decision public, I will be available to all of you to offer any comment, if you would like me to."
It struck Ms. Guichon that Ms. Clark did not mention that she had tendered her resignation and requested dissolution, the official said.
"It made the next decision a little easier to make."
Meanwhile, Mr. Horgan and his staff, who had been alerted earlier that the NDP leader might be summoned to Government House, watched television coverage related to the meeting. Ms. Clark's comments about the Lieutenant-Governor retiring to make her decision confused them; they wondered if he would still be called.
He was. At 7:45 p.m., Mr. Horgan and two staffers arrived at Government House. Mr. Horgan went into the Lieutenant-Governor's office, and for several minutes they were joined by Ms. Guichon's private secretary, Jerymy Brownridge, who was present to bear witness to events.
Ms. Guichon asked the leader-in-waiting whether he had the confidence of the House to form a government; Mr. Horgan replied that he did.
"He looked pleased," Mr. Brownridge said, adding that Mr. Horgan also appeared serious, contemplative and diplomatic.
Ron Cheffins, a constitutional expert and former B.C. Court of Appeal judge who has advised five past lieutenant-governors, said he was proud of Ms. Guichon.
"Christy Clark was lobbying for an election but said she didn't want to provide advice," Mr. Cheffins said. "Let's hear it for the Lieutenant-Governor, because she put the Premier on the spot and said, 'You have to give advice.'"
At 8:05 p.m. – while Mr. Horgan was still behind closed doors – a message was sent from his Twitter account: "Today British Columbians finally have the change they voted for."
Mr. Horgan emerged from Government House and told a small group of onlookers: "I've just spoken with the Lieutenant-Governor, and she has asked me if I have the confidence of the legislature to form government, and I told her that I do."
With a report from Justine Hunter in Victoria