News / Vancouver

Liberal minority confirmed as Elections B.C. completes vote count

Three days of counting absentee votes upholds preliminary results in historic British Columbia election.

B.C. Liberal leader Christy Clark waves to the crowd following the B.C. Liberal election in Vancouver, B.C., Wednesday, May 10, 2017.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

B.C. Liberal leader Christy Clark waves to the crowd following the B.C. Liberal election in Vancouver, B.C., Wednesday, May 10, 2017.

It’s finally, really, official: British Columbia will have its first minority government in 65 years.

The province anxiously waited for three days – and wore out the refresh buttons on the BC Elections website – as more than 170,000 absentee ballots were counted this week while the fate of the province hinged on a few ridings that were too close to call on election night, May 9.

In the end, it all came down to the Vancouver Island riding of Courtenay-Comox Wednesday evening, where NDP candidate Ronna-Rae Leonard was confirmed the winner over Liberal candidate Jim Benninger by just 189 votes. Leonard recieved 10,886 votes to Benninger's 10,697.

That means instead of maintaining her majority government, Premier Christy Clark’s Liberals head into the next legislative session with a minority government of 43 seats, while the NDP has 41 seats.

In a release, Elections B.C. said there would be no automatic judicial recounts (judicial recount are held if there is a tie, or if the difference between the top two candidates is less than 1/500 of the total ballots). Candidates still have six days to apply to the Supreme Court of B.C. for a judicial recount if they believe errors were made.

The final popular count showed just how close the election was, with the Liberals and NDP almost tied with 40.36 and 40.28 per cent of the vote respectively. In fact, provincewide, the difference between the two parties was a mere 1,566 votes.

In a statement Wednesday, the premier said her party had achieved a plurality in the legislature and a "responsibility to move forward and form a government."

"The final result reinforces that British Columbians want us to work together, across party lines, and get things done for them."

B.C. NDP leader John Horgan called the results a "coin toss" and said British Columbians have voted overwhelmingly for change.

"They voted for better schools, shorter wait times for health services, to defend our coast and to fix our broken political system," said Horgan in a release.

Andrew Weaver’s B.C. Green Party preserved its three seats from election night, giving the party the balance of power. The Greens received 16.84 per cent of the popular vote.

Both the Liberals and the NDP have been in negotiations with the Green Party this week, which has said it wants certain conditions met (such commitments on campaign financing and electoral reform) to prop up the province’s next government.

Horgan told media he is "optimistic" of striking a partnership with Weaver's Greens to form government.

"The election is over today. Christy Clark and the Liberals came up short and after 16 years it’s time for a new government," he said. "I’m optimistic that we’ll be able to put together a framework that has a majority of the support in the legislature [with the Greens].

"We’ve been talking about the issues that we share in common. Proportional representation, getting big money out of politics. Those are two fundamental issues for both parties and they’re fundamental because they address and affect people."

Weaver, meanwhile, remained as diplomatic as he’s been since election night, telling media he is willing to work with either party.

He hopes to make a final decision by Wednesday, May 31.

“We’re determined to ensure that the policy measures that we’re discussing are implemented. British Columbians have put the burden of responsibility on us to do the right thing and we take that seriously,” said Weaver. “We’ve had productive conversations with the NDP and the BC Liberals. Those conversations are ongoing.”

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