VICTORIA — The New Democrats are widening a lead in Vancouver Island’s crucial Courtenay-Comox riding, where the results could determine the next British Columbia government.
The latest Elections BC absentee ballot count has NDP candidate Ronna-Rae Leonard ahead of Liberal candidate Jim Benninger by 148 votes.
The race between Leonard and Benninger has swung back and forth, since election night on May 9 when Leonard held a 13-vote lead.
The gap in the popular vote is also closing between the two major parties, showing the Liberals with 40.36 per cent support compared with the New Democrat’s 40.28 per cent.
At stake is a one-seat Liberal majority if Benninger wins, but if Leonard wins, there could be a Liberal or NDP minority government with the support of three Green members in the 87-seat legislature.
A judicial recount remains a possibility depending on the final outcome or the ability of either the Liberals or NDP to convince a judge to order a recount.
The standings on election night were: 43 Liberals, 41 New Democrats and three Greens. A majority government would be 44 seats.
Liberal and New Democrat negotiating groups have met separately with a Green team since the election in an effort to reach a political co-operation agreement that would either support the Liberals to govern or allow the NDP to form a government.
Green Leader Andrew Weaver has said the Greens want party status even though they don’t have the required four seats. The Greens also want to reform the current first-past-the-post electoral system and want changes to B.C.’s campaign finance system that currently allows large donations from corporations, unions and individuals.
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