What's next for B.C.? A potentially rocky road, experts say
Published Wednesday, May 10, 2017 10:23AM PDT
Last Updated Wednesday, May 10, 2017 6:52PM PDT
British Columbians are facing their first minority government in 65 years, leaving many wondering just what to expect moving forward.
Unfortunately, it could take a while for the dust to settle, and for a number of key questions to be answered – but Gerald Baier, a political scientist from the University of British Columbia, said minority governments tend to signal a rocky road ahead.
"Minority governments last on average 18 months, and they're not particularly productive 18-month periods most of the time," Baier told CTV News in the run-up to the vote.
B.C.'s last minority government was in 1952, when W.A.C. Bennett was first elected. There was another election the following year, and he won again with a clear majority.
But at this point, it isn't even certain the B.C. Liberal Party, which won 43 of 87 seats in the initial count, will end up with a minority. Given there were several very narrow victories on election night, it's still possible the Liberals could form the party's fifth consecutive majority when the final count is complete – or even for the NDP to emerge victorious with a minority.
Recounts and absentee ballots
Either outcome could hinge on absentee ballots, 163,000 of which were cast during the last election in 2013.
"This is anyone who has cast their ballot by mail, in a district office, outside their electoral district during advanced voting, or not at their assigned voting place on election day,” Elections B.C. spokesman Andrew Watson said.
Those will be tallied during the final count from May 22 to 24. There has been an upward trend for absentee voting numbers over the last three elections, Watson said, going from about five per cent of the overall vote in 2005 to 10 per cent last time.
There are two very tight NDP ridings, in Courtenay-Comox and Maple Ridge-Mission, that could end up changing hands as a result. Either one could deliver a 44-seat majority to the Liberals.
But if the NDP were to hold those, and take Coquitlam-Burke Mountain and Richmond-Queensborough, which the Liberals won by 170 and 263 votes, respectively, the NDP would end up with its first provincial victory since 1996.
There's also the potential for recounts, particularly in Courtney-Comox, which the NDP won by a mere nine votes.
What to expect with a minority
Should the current seat count stand, a whole other set of questions remain – most notably, will the Greens form a coalition with either of the two other parties?
Green Leader Andrew Weaver hasn't signaled his intention either way, but while addressing supporters late Tuesday night he said whatever happens, ridding the province of political donations from corporations and unions – a promise shared by the NDP – will be a priority.
"Any outcome must demand an immediate commitment to ban big money," Weaver said to cheers.
An NDP-Green coalition under those circumstances would produce a majority with 44 seats. The coalition would have to appoint a speaker, taking up one seat, but the speaker would be able to vote in the event of a tie in the legislature.
Baier said when minority governments do function well, third parties such as the Greens can "extract some pretty impressive concessions."
"Medicare, at a federal level, is the result of the NDP's support for a federal Liberal minority. So these can be times that are quite creative in terms of our policies," he said.
But before any of that, the Liberals, being the incumbents and having won a plurality of seats, would get first crack at forming government.
Baier siad Clark would face the house with a confidence vote, either on a speech from the throne or a budget. If the vote passed, she would remain on as premier, but if the Liberals were to lose the pressure would be on Clark to resign.