No clear winner in B.C. election

Vancouver – May 17, 2017 – For the first time in 65 years, voters in British Columbia may be looking at a minority government. On election night, the Liberal Party was declared elected in 43 constituencies, with the NDP elected in 41 and the Greens in 3.

But with several constituencies seeing very narrow margins of victory – like Courtney Comox, where the NDP won by only 9 votes – the May 22 counting of approximately 180,000 absentee ballots may change the election night results. For now, though, the Green Party’s three MLAs hold significant sway over who will form the next government in B.C.

While the parties await the count of the absentee ballots, Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver has laid out two of his key conditions for supporting another party and potentially forming a coalition government. They include reforming B.C.’s electoral system to one based on proportional representation, and eliminating big money in politics by banning corporate and union donations.

On these two issues, the Greens share common ground with the NDP. On six different occasions, the B.C. New Democrats have introduced private member’s bills aimed at ending corporate and union donations. In addition, their election platform called for holding a referendum on whether B.C. should move to a system of proportional representation.

However, no one should underestimate the Liberals’ desire to remain in power. The Liberals still have enough money in the bank from their windfall of corporate donations over the last decade to finance their next election campaign, whenever that may come. So they may be willing to bend on election finance reform. And they may even be willing to call a referendum on proportional representation, based on the belief that such a vote would not succeed.

As well, during the election, Weaver was much more forceful in his attacks on NDP Leader John Horgan then he was on Christy Clark, suggesting that he may have difficulty working with Horgan in the legislature. But the NDP platform was more aligned with Green Party policies than was the Liberal Party platform. As a result, Weaver could face backlash from his party base if he chooses to keep the B.C. Liberals in power.

Both the B.C. NDP and the Green Party made big gains in the election, with the NDP picking up 7 new seats and the Greens gaining 2. By contrast, the governing Liberals lost 6 seats. There was clearly a desire for real change, but until those final absentee votes are counted, we will have to wait to see what B.C.’s next government will look like.