Claude Richmond made an overt partisan decision, one that seriously hampered the Legislature's operation and denied 43% of British Columbians a voice. Richmond ruled as directed (albeit indirectly) by the Premier to deny the NDP official opposition status.
Rafe Mair in an article published by TheTyee.ca recalls the speaker's decision this way ...
"The last parliament was, of course, a joke. The government started with 77 members leaving just two New Democrats to take on the entire role of the Loyal Opposition. The tone was set when Speaker Claude Richmond, no doubt on instructions of Premier Campbell, denied the NDP "Official Party Status" thus depriving Ms. MacPhail and Ms. Kwan the resources to do a better job. The Speaker was within his rights but he also could have made an exception had he wanted to but no, it was "rub their noses in it" time."
Stacey RobinSmith talked to the former speaker ...
"He added that the New Democrats did receive every benefit of being the Official Opposition without being called the "Official" opposition. He also said that the New Democrats, in spite of having only two members in the Legislature did an admirable job during each sitting of the Legislature."
Richmond is right when he refers to the efforts of MacPhail and Kwan, They did do an admirable job despite his rulings and the government's own mean-spirited actions. Some examples include;
Denial of adequate research and support staff - This action denied the NDP members with the ability to study all the legislation and budgets fully, to do background work and prepare for debate.
Office space for the two NDP members were the two smallest and in the basement of the legislative buildings. This placement hardly respected parliamentary tradition and was meant to "rub the election loss" in even more.
Debates of the budget and legislation - The Liberals began by denying the NDP the courtesy of washroom breaks. Often there would be debates in two chambers at the same time. The two NDP MLA's would go separate ways to debate. The Liberals finally consented once they were reminded that Kwan was pregnant. An NDP member could have left the Chamber at any time but if they had the Liberals would close debate on the section of the bill or budget that was being debated.
Richmond condoned the Campbell government's actions and near the end of the session prior to the election, he tried to put a time limit on questions during question period. The NDP with a third MLA was able to cause the government considerable embarrassment, but not to worry, Richmond rode to their rescue.
As Rafe Mair wrote at TheTyee.ca, the tone of the Legislature will be set early on by Campbell's choice of speaker. (The speaker is chosen by a vote, the Liberals however will support one person for speaker, someone that received the nod from Campbell.)
Lets hope for Richmond's name not being put forward. If the Liberals do this, expect one real nasty house!