BC Election Results in Liberal Minority, Greens Hold Balance of Power

BC's Green party poised to play a powerful role in a mysterious new coalition government.

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May 10 2017, 8:40am

Wow, wow, wow. It turns out Christy Clark may not keep her job for a third term as premier of British Columbia. After a long campaign that highlighted the province's super lax political fundraising laws (and Clark's apparent creative interpretation of those rules), the people elected a near-certain minority government that will put a whole lot more power in the hands of the BC Green Party.

As of midnight Tuesday, the BC Liberals clinched 43 seats, one short of the 44 needed to form a safe majority. The New Democrats led by John Horgan grew their seat count to 41, and the BC Greens grabbed three. Recounts on a handful of close races could tip the results in several directions—including a still-possible BC Liberal majority—which means BC may not have a clear outcome for more than a week.

But one thing is for damn sure: BC Green Leader Andrew Weaver is going to get a lot of ass-kissing phone calls over the next 48 hours as the two leading parties vie for a coalition.

Assuming the minority government sticks, it will be a first for the province in more than half a century. BC Liberals will get the first chance to form a coalition government with the Greens, but the BC New Democrats could prove a closer ally with left-leaning environmental policy. As the results rolled in on live TV, NDP and Green campaign surrogates stressed two common policies: banning "big money" in politics and election reform.

The race was made tighter by a series of campaign finance revelations that painted the long-ruling BC Liberal party as in the pocket of their super-wealthy donors. Months before official campaigning began, a New York Times story set the tone branding BC a "wild west" for political donations. BC is one of the only provinces that allows unlimited contributions from unions, companies, and people who don't even live in Canada. The BC Liberals are particularly cozy with lobbyists and donors, appointing many of them to lead crown corporations and other government-affiliated councils and boards.

Clark had already taken hits for receiving thousands of dollars in stipends directly from the party purse. An investigation by the Globe and Mail later revealed that Clark was also receiving indirect donations from companies and clients via lobbyists. The RCMP has taken over an investigation into the indirect donations, which are illegal in the province.

In the last days of the campaign, CTV released its own review of campaign contributions made by the people BC Liberals appointed to boards that oversee government functions. Over the last 12 years those appointees made nearly five million in donations to the BC Liberal party.

"Tonight is the beginning of something really different," Clark told supporters Tuesday night. A Liberal majority? An NDP-Green coalition? A Liberal-Green coalition? We'll find out in two weeks, but it's clear the province's "system of legalized bribery" will be under a much closer microscope.

Follow Sarah Berman on Twitter.

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