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What the final vote count could mean for B.C.

UBC experts explain how different vote counts could shape B.C.’s government

The final vote count May 22 to 24 could change the preliminary vote count enough to shift power from the Liberals to another party, say political scientists.

The Canadian Press

The final vote count May 22 to 24 could change the preliminary vote count enough to shift power from the Liberals to another party, say political scientists.

The preliminary vote count after one of the tightest B.C. elections in recent memory indicate the incumbent B.C. Liberals have a minority government and are only one seat away from a majority government.

But with such narrow margins at play – the NDP won Courtenay-Comox by nine votes – political observers say it is too early to predict what a B.C. government will look like until after the final count happens on May 22 to 24.

The preliminary vote count had the Liberals holding 43 seats, the NDP 41, and the Greens three.

Here are a few scenarios that could unfold, according to a panel of UBC political scientists.

A Liberal minority

Liberals 43, NDP 41, Greens 3

The most obvious path is one where the Liberals rule as a minority government, said Gerald Baier, associate professor of political science.

“They have every right under the constitution to go back to the house and until they are defeated, to stay in power.”

But the Liberals could also ask the Greens to form a coalition or working agreement, said political science professor, Kathryn Harrison.

“One of the options [for the Greens] is to create a formal coalition or a formal agreement to support one of the parties,” she said.

“Short of an actual coalition, there can be a contract between parties that specifies that one small party typically will support another party forming government in exchange for certain commitments.”

Harrison explained Green parties in Europe have historically used the contract method to push through environmentally friendly policies like carbon taxes.

The B.C. Greens could ask for anything ranging from electoral reform to a change in political donation rules, said Baier.

“You could conceive of a scenario where the Greens say, ‘here are our deal breakers,’” he said.

The Greens could also form a coalition with the NDP instead and use their combined majority to force the Liberals to step down, said Richard Johnston, a political science professor. 

But while the Greens and NDP have more in common policy-wise, it would be a tricky scenario to navigate, he said.

“It would require (B.C. Green Leader Andrew Weaver) to support the loser and optically, that’s not great.”

A Liberal majority

Liberals 44, NDP 40, Greens 3

This one is fairly simple.

If it’s a tie

Liberals 42, NDP 42, Green 3

This scenario would put the Greens in the ultimate kingmaker position because neither major party can rule without their support.  

It is also the situation that would most likely yield a formal coalition, said Grace Lore, a senior researcher.

“That would open the doors to discussion,” she said.

But coalitions can also backfire on the third party, warned Harrison.

“I think the risks to any junior partner in a coalition are pretty great. There’s a long history of Green parties in coalitions getting something they really wanted in round one and then being wiped of the electoral map in the second round.” 

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