At the end of an up-and-down election campaign, British Columbia has voted, reducing the Liberals to a minority government and granting the Green party the balance of power.
As the votes poured in late into Tuesday night, an initial Liberal lead slipped away, as a resurgent New Democratic Party climbed to nip at the incumbent party’s heels, with the third-place Green Party tripling their seat count.
The final tally had the Liberals with 43 seats, the NDP at 41, and the Greens at 3. But given that a party needs at least 44 seats to govern with a majority, it’s not clear what will happen next, as a number of a races were so close a recount seems inevitable.
“We have won the popular vote, and we have won the most seats, and with absentee ballots still to come, I am confident they will strengthen our margin of victory,” said Premier Christy Clark, who will have a first chance at forming government, as is Parliamentary convention. But there’s little guarantee that she’ll be able to hang on to power.
Clark could try to form a coalition with the Greens, but she might not find enough middle ground to make it work. If she can’t come to agreement with one of the other parties, she could face a vote of no-confidence from the legislature, which would leave it to NDP Leader John Horgan to try and form his own government, with the support of Weaver.
Clark has little in common with Green leader Andrew Weaver, who has fought against her plans to construct new oil pipelines, advance a domestic liquid natural gas industry, and construct a massive hydroelectric dam in the province’s interior.
Weaver has much more overlap with NDP leader John Horgan, who has run an aggressive campaign to unseat the Liberals, who have held power in B.C. since 2001.
All this doesn’t preclude the possibility that Clark could simply offer Weaver the better deal. A Green Party spokesperson told CTV news on election night that conversations were already happening as the results rolled in, and said that an overhaul of B.C’s voting system and a ban on union and corporate donations were “deal breakers” and were required commitments in order to win Green support in the legislature.
Beyond controversial energy issues, B.C. is still in the grips of a opioid crisis, as overdoses have skyrocketed in recent years — another point of agreement between the NDP and Greens, who both singled out the spike in deaths as a priority.
Housing has also been a key issue, as home prices skyrocket. All parties have traded solutions on how to tackle the problem, from raising taxes on foreign homebuyers to constructing more affordable housing units.
There a few considerations that could still affect the results.
Automatic recounts, which can be triggered when the victor won by less than 100 votes, or judicial recounts may still flip one or more seats across the province.
There is also another, more salacious possibility: That one party, or the other, could convince a member from their rival party to cross the floor and tip the majority in their direction.
The election came close to making history in another way, just a few hundred votes shy of electing Canada’s first-ever transgender candidate, but ultimately Morgane Oger, who ran for the NDP in Vancouver, was defeated by the Liberals.