Outcome uncertain as B.C. faces minority government
Published Tuesday, May 9, 2017 7:58AM PDT
Last Updated Wednesday, May 10, 2017 10:26AM PDT
Christy Clark has declared her intention to continue leading B.C. as premier, though much uncertainty remained as her supporters headed home on election night.
Clark made the announcement at the Liberals' headquarters in downtown Vancouver after midnight, with her party having seized 43 of 87 seats in the initial count to the NDP's 41.
"Tonight we won the popular vote," Clark told a cheering crowd. "And we have also won the most seats. And with absentee ballots still to be counted I am confident they will strengthen our margin of victory, so it is my intention to continue to lead British Columbia's government."
The province is facing its first minority government since 1952, with the balance of power in the hands of Andrew Weaver's Green Party, which managed to win three ridings.
Weaver addressed supporters shortly after Clark, and revealed he has spoken with the leaders of both the Liberals and NDP about how he intends to move forward.
No decisions regarding potential coalitions have been made, however.
"Now is not the time for those discussions. Now is the time for Greens across North America to celebrate," Weaver said.
It's also still possible for the Liberals to achieve a majority; NDP candidate Ronna-Rae Leonard won in Courtenay-Comox by fewer than 10 votes, well under the threshold for a recount.
There are a handful of other tight ridings that could change hands once the final count is completed later this month as well, including Coquitlam-Burke Mountain, which the Liberals led by just 170 votes in the initial tally.
Significantly, NDP Leader John Horgan, speaking to packed hall at the Vancouver Convention Centre in the early morning hours of Wednesday, did not concede defeat.
"British Columbians have waited 16 years for a government that works for them, and we're going to have to ask you to wait a little bit longer," Horgan said, "until all the votes are counted and the final results of this election are known."
Despite the Liberals' first place finish, the party lost significant ground, ending 16 years of majorities and relinquishing several battleground ridings in Metro Vancouver.
A number of high-profile cabinet ministers were unseated, including Amrik Virk in Surrey-Guildford, Susan Anton in Vancouver-Fraserview, and Peter Fassbender in Surrey-Fleetwood.
Fassbender, who served as education minister during the most recent teachers' strike, said there is a cost to being the public face of such a divisive battle.
"People see you in a different light." Fassbender said. "I am still proud of the fact that we got a long-term agreement… I have no regrets whatsoever. I've enjoyed my time serving the community, and who knows what the future holds."
Earlier on election night, the NDP's Spencer Chandra Herbert, who won another term in Vancouver-West End, said he's excited at the prospect of delivering on some of the party's campaign promises, even if it requires teaming up with the Greens.
"We both want to ban corporate and union donations, we both want action on climate change. Those are two areas Christy Clark and her government have refused to act on," he said.
Unlike the campaign run by previous NDP leader Adrian Dix in 2013, Horgan took the gloves off and put up a fierce fight this round, hammering Clark and the Liberals on hot-button issues of housing affordability and big money political contributions.
The NDP made several big-ticket promises as well, including pledges to scrap bridge tolls, end Medical Services Plan payments within four years, and introduce $10 a day child care.
Clark, who took over after Gordon Campbell's resignation in 2011, focused her message largely on jobs and the economy, particularly pressing issues amid troubling trade developments with the U.S.
B.C.’s robust economy has grown to be the envy of most other jurisdictions with Liberal governments at the helm, though the boom-time benefits have not been evenly distributed.
While the province boasted one of the lowest overall unemployment rates in the country last month, at 5.5 per cent, it was as high as 9.7 per cent in the north.
The Liberals promised voters they would freeze personal income taxes, lower taxes for small businesses, and deliver another four balanced budgets to add to the party's previous five.
But advisor Brad Bennett, the grandson of W.A.C. Bennett, said ultimately their charismatic leader was the party's greatest asset on the campaign trail.
"She is a brilliant campaigner," Bennett said. "I think we've got the best shot because of her and her ability to communicate her message. She does that very sincerely and directly."
The Green Party, which won its historic first seat in the last election, picked up two additional seats: Candidate Adam Olsen took the riding of Saanich North and the Islands, which was the second-closest race during the last election, and Sonia Furstenau won in Cowichan Valley.
The party's leader also won once again in Oak Bay-Gordon Head.