It’s too close to call in Bri­tish Columbia

Pro­vin­cial elec­tion re­sults in doubt for at least two more weeks, with more re­counts pos­si­ble

The Hamilton Spectator - - CANADA & WORLD - LAURA KANE AND GEORDON OMAND

VAN­COU­VER — Bri­tish Columbia faces a two-week pe­riod of un­cer­tainty un­til the fi­nal re­sults are in from its tight elec­tion race, when it will be­come clearer whether the province has a mi­nor­ity or ma­jor­ity gov­ern­ment.

Pre­mier Christy Clark spoke to the lieu­tenant-gov­er­nor on Wed­nes­day af­ter the Lib­er­als squeaked out a ra­zor-thin vic­tory over the NDP, leav­ing the province with its first mi­nor­ity gov­ern­ment in 65 years, if the re­sults don’t change.

The pre­mier’s of­fice said Lt.-Gov. Ju­dith Gui­chon has asked Clark to con­tinue gov­ern­ing af­ter the elec­tion.

Clark’s party won 43 seats while the NDP led by John Hor­gan col­lected 41 and the Greens un­der An­drew Weaver won three rid­ings in the 87-seat leg­is­la­ture. The Lib­er­als only need one more seat for a ma­jor­ity.

But the out­come will re­main un­clear while 176,000 ab­sen­tee bal­lots are counted, which could flip close rid­ings in­clud­ing Courte­nay-Co­mox, where the NDP won by nine votes.

Even af­ter the fi­nal re­sults are an­nounced May 24, tight fin­ishes could trig­ger ju­di­cial re­counts.

Af­ter the ini­tial re­sults were in Tues­day, Hor­gan said the out­come shows Bri­tish Columbians want a change in gov­ern­ment af­ter 16 years un­der the Lib­er­als.

But Clark had a dif­fer­ent in­ter­pre­ta­tion, say­ing she reads the re­sults as a plea to the ma­jor par­ties to work to­gether more ef­fec­tively.

Asked sev­eral times Wed­nes­day if she ac­cepts per­sonal re­spon­si­bil­ity for the Lib­er­als’ show­ing, Clark avoided a di­rect an­swer.

“Bri­tish Columbians sent a very strong mes­sage to all sides of the leg­is­la­ture. They want us to work to­gether col­lab­o­ra­tively and across par­ti­san lines,” said Clark, who was try­ing to win the party’s fifth straight ma­jor­ity gov­ern­ment.

The Lib­er­als lost seats in Metro Van­cou­ver and sev­eral cab­i­net min­is­ters were de­feated.

The dif­fer­ence be­tween the Lib­er­als and NDP in the pop­u­lar vote on Tues­day was about 17,800 votes in favour of Clark’s party.

With three seats, the Green party holds the bal­ance of power in the leg­is­la­ture — a re­mark­able po­si­tion for Weaver af­ter be­com­ing the first Green elected four years ago.

Weaver said he called both lead­ers to con­grat­u­late them. Both Hor­gan and Clark said on Wed­nes­day that they in­tend to sit down with Weaver to talk about work­ing to­gether.

Hor­gan said he and Weaver agree that the Lib­er­als have failed Bri­tish Columbians on many is­sues. But Hor­gan would not make a com­mit­ment to work­ing with the Green leader in a mi­nor­ity gov­ern­ment.

Asked what stopped the NDP from win­ning, Hor­gan said the game was still on.

“There’s still 176,000 sec­onds on the clock and I’m go­ing to wait to see what the fi­nal out­come is,” he said, re­fer­ring to the num­ber of ab­sen­tee bal­lots still to be counted.

Weaver said his party would ne­go­ti­ate with both party lead­ers in the com­ing weeks and would work with who­ever has the most com­mon­al­ity with the Green plat­form.

“The most im­por­tant is­sue for us right now, the No. 1 deal breaker, is ban­ning big money in B.C. pol­i­tics,” he said.

B.C. al­lows un­lim­ited cor­po­rate and union do­na­tions and the RCMP is in­ves­ti­gat­ing fundrais­ing by po­lit­i­cal par­ties. The NDP has promised to ban the do­na­tions, while the Lib­er­als have said they’ll con­vene a panel to re­view them.

But don’t ex­pect ne­go­ti­a­tions on the pos­si­ble frame­work of a mi­nor­ity gov­ern­ment to start un­til af­ter the dust set­tles, said Richard John­ston, a po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tist at the Univer­sity of Bri­tish Columbia.

“It’s en­tirely pos­si­ble, first of all, that it won’t be a mi­nor­ity gov­ern­ment,” he said.

“Sub­stan­tively, it’s eas­ier to imag­ine a deal be­tween the Greens and the NDP — not per­son­al­ity wise, but on sub­stance. John Hor­gan has al­ready sig­nalled the ba­sis of the deal.”

Hor­gan said Tues­day that a ma­jor­ity of Bri­tish Columbians voted for a new gov­ern­ment and that needs to be con­sid­ered. He said vot­ers want changes to po­lit­i­cal fundrais­ing laws and elec­toral re­form — two of the Green party’s pri­or­i­ties.

John­ston said if the re­sults re­main a Lib­eral mi­nor­ity gov­ern­ment with the Greens hold­ing the bal­ance of power, Weaver has to be care­ful. Sup­port­ing mi­nor­ity gov­ern­ments is usu­ally per­ilous for the smaller par­ties, he said.

JONATHAN HAY­WARD, THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Bri­tish Columbia Pre­mier Christy Clark ar­rives to ad­dress the me­dia at her of­fice in Van­cou­ver, B.C., Wed­nes­day.

John Hor­gan

An­drew Weaver

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