NDP wins final Courtenay-Comox count, securing Liberal minority in B.C.
Published Wednesday, May 24, 2017 11:20AM PDT
Last Updated Thursday, May 25, 2017 1:40PM PDT
The NDP has held on to a key riding after days of ballot counting, denying the BC Liberals a chance at a majority government.
Elections BC's final results, published at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, show NDP candidate Ronna-Rae Leonard emerged from the final count with 10,886 votes, 189 votes ahead of Liberal Jim Benninger.
Final counts began across the province on Monday, and are now complete in all 87 ridings.
- Get a closer look at the results in your riding on CTV Vancouver's interactive election results page
None of the ridings changed hands in the three-day count, but Courtenay-Comox was a roller-coaster ride, with Benninger at one point pulling ahead by three votes. Leonard led in subsequent updates, but hundreds of votes remained and a Liberal win was still possible up until the final numbers were revealed.
The Vancouver Island riding was the tightest race on election night, with Leonard eking out a preliminary win by only nine votes triggering a recount that increased the razor-thin margin to 13, though that did not include absentee ballots.
The riding was particularly important because if the Liberals had won, it would have given the party the 44 seats required for a majority government, putting the policy dreams of Green and NDP supporters in jeopardy.
Province-wide, final counts have also decreased the Liberals' popular vote lead over the NDP to a mere 1,645 votes, or about 0.08 per cent of all ballots cast.
Premier Christy Clark issued a statement following the results congratulating candidates from all parties on a hard-fought campaign.
"It's not easy, and they deserve our gratitude for working to make our province even better," she said.
Clark said her priorities as leader of a minority government will be to protect the province's "strong economy," and listen to voters about social and environmental priorities.
"The final result reinforces that British Columbians want us to work together, across party lines, to get things done for them," she said.
"The work is just beginning."
After the results were made public, NDP Leader John Horgan told reporters he has been in talks with Green Leader Andrew Weaver and that he is hopeful they can work together.
Horgan said he and Weaver believe "big Liberal donors" have made it hard for the public to find a place in politics.
"I also believe that we've seen quite clearly that 60 per cent of voters voted for change. They voted for a new government, and under our current first-past-the-post system, they're not going to get that," he said.
He recommitted to pushing for election reform, a topic he promised to bring to voters in a referendum if elected premier. He also mentioned childcare, seniors care and health care.
"I'm going to work as hard as I can to make sure that the people of B.C. get a government that's actually working for them," he said.
Speaking a short time later, Weaver said the party was humbled by the results of the final count.
"Knowing that we are now in a minority government situation, BC Greens take this very, very seriously," he told reporters.
He said the party has ongoing conversations with both the NDP and the Liberals, and that they're willing to negotiate in the long-term.
"And we're committed to ensure that the decisions we make in the next few days are those that actually make government work in British Columbia," he added.
Weaver said the Greens' goal is to reach an agreement on how to work together with one or both parties by the time the writ is returned to the lieutenant governor next week. He said they've seen a "staggering" number of emails from members of the public pushing them toward working with one party or the other, but that "it's all on the table right now."
He said his party's priorities will be proportional representation, getting big money out of politics and getting the rights that come with party status. The Greens will also focus on the issue of climate change, he said.
He also said Clark erred in her "premature" statement saying the Liberals had a responsibility to continue to govern.
"The premier has a responsibility to ensure that she gains the confidence of the house to form government. That is her responsibility at this juncture," said Weaver. "We have not tested the confidence of the house yet, but negotiations are ongoing."
Although the results have been finalized, there's still the possibility for judicial recounts, which can be requested within six days of the release of the final results.
Judicial recounts are automatic in any riding won by fewer than 1/500 of the votes – about 58 ballots in Courtenay-Comox – and are conducted by a B.C. Supreme Court Judge. They are only requested by candidates, voters or district electoral officers if there is reason to believe the ballots weren't counted correctly, or if a ballot account doesn't accurately record the votes cast for a candidate, Elections BC says.
Horgan said at this point his party does not plan to file a request.
The writ of election will be returned to the chief electoral officer on May 31, officially ending the election period. If the Greens decide before then that they are unhappy with a Liberal minority, they could agree to a formal or informal coalition and attempt to get into power.
If they choose not to form a coalition, Clark will be formally asked to lead the province.
And with no one clearly coming out on top, a local political scientist said the government likely won't last too long. All parties will work to build trust with voters ahead of the next election, likely sooner than the traditional four years, UBC's Richard Johnston says.
"Most of the provincial minority governments have been highly transitional," Johnston told CTV Vancouver.
"Frankly when people idealize minority governments, what they're thinking of is a handful of Liberal minority governments in the '60s, or a few others in other decades."
Johnston said minority governments are based on "manoeuvre and strategy, where the whole point is finding that sweet spot where you get the dissolution." Then the parties go to the electorate and both try to win a majority.
With files from CTV Vancouver's Penny Daflos