Monday, May 22, 2017

BC provincial election ends in a cliffhanger

Talk about a cliffhanger! The British Columbia provincial election took place the other week, and the incumbent Liberals looked set to be demoted from a majority government to a strong minority, having won 43 of the possible 87 ridings in the province, compared to the NDP's 41 seats, and the Green Party's 3.
However, it's not over yet. The riding of Courtney-Comox on Vancouver Island was won by the NDP candidate Ronna-Rae Leonard by just 9 votes (she garnered 10,058 compared to Liberal candidate Jim Benninger's 10,049). This has therefore triggered an automatic recount, because the winning margin was less than the 0.2% stipulated in BC law. The recount will also include an estimated 1,500 so-called "absentee ballots" that have not yet been tabulated. These ballots include voters who voted by mail, voters who voted in a district office, voters who voted outside their electoral district during advanced voting, and voters who voted on election day but not at their assigned voting place.
If just a handful of votes can be shown to have been miscounted, or if the inclusion of absentee votes swings the result, as it could easily do, then the Liberals will vault from a minority position, where they are reliant on the (dubious) goodwill of the Green Party, whose three members hold the balance of power, to a majority, where they can push through their agenda regardless of the other parties.
Interestingly, this is not the first time the region has been in this position. In 1983, the long-standing NDP member for the Comox Valey riding appeared to have lost the election, only to find that she had won it after all following a recount.

After the recount, the NDP ended up retaining the Courtenay-Comox seat after all, so the final elections results remain the same: Liberals 43, NDP 41 and Greens 3. The Liberals are reduced to a minority government, and the Greens have a historic opportunity to influence government policy.

In a move out of proverbial left field, the Greens have actually chosen to get into bed with the NDP, not the Liberals. The NDP-Green coalition can now outvote the Liberals 44-43 (providing everyone stays on-cue) on such controversial issues as the Kinder-Morgan pipeline and the Site C hydro dam.
So, the Liberals are still the governing party technically, and Christy Clark remains Premier, but they are severely hamstrung in what they can achieve, unless they can persuade individual NDP or Green members to peel off from the pack on individual measures.
It also leaves them open to a non-confidence vote (the upcoming Throne Speech and the next budget bill are both confidence issues that could trigger such a vote), and if the Liberals lose that, then either a new election could be called, or, more likely, the Lieutenant-Governor could ask the NDP and the Greens to form a coalition government, which they would be more than happy to do (even if the Greens are stressing that they are not in favour of an official coalition government).
Interesting times for political junkies.

Just to bring things up to date, as of June 29th, the BC NDP, with the grudging aid of the BC Green Party, have brought the Liberals down on a confidence vote, and have, with the Lieutenant-Governor's blessing, accepted the responsibility of forming a government. So, John Horgan and the NDP have their day after all.

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