VICTORIA — British Columbia entered a new stage of political uncertainty Wednesday as the final vote count from the May 9 election confirmed the province’s first minority government in 65 years.
The Liberals finished one seat short of a majority, with 43 seats in the 87-seat legislature. The NDP has 41 seats and the Greens hold the balance of power with three seats.
The focus during the final count was on the riding of Courtenay-Comox, which the NDP won by 189 votes after holding a slim 13-vote lead on election night. The Liberals had hoped to swing the riding in their favour once absentee ballots were counted.
Elections BC says none of the races finished close enough to trigger automatic applications for judicial recounts.
Exploratory talks involving possible political collaborations with the Greens have been underway since the election, but the parties have said they were awaiting the final results to begin the talks in earnest on the shape of a minority government.
Premier Christy Clark issued a statement saying the Liberals intend to form a government.
“With 43 B.C. Liberal candidates elected as MLAs, and a plurality in the legislature, we have a responsibility to move forward and form a government,” she said.
“The final result reinforces that British Columbians want us to work together, across party lines, to get things done for them.”
As the incumbent premier with the most seats, Clark would be given the first chance to form a minority government by the lieutenant-governor.
But NDP Leader John Horgan said the results of the election show voters want change and he believes he can work with Green Leader Andrew Weaver to govern.
“British Columbians have voted overwhelmingly to replace Christy Clark’s Liberals with a new government that works better for families,” he said.
Michael Prince, a social policy expert at the University of Victoria, said Clark is also gambling that British Columbians are not in the mood to head back to the polls and the longer she can stay in power, the better are her chances of winning another election.
“I think she’ll be hoping there’ll be no appetite for an instant election,” he said. “She can try to bring in a throne speech and a budget with a lot of green tinges.”
The popular vote tightened as Elections BC finished counting almost 180,000 absentee ballots to finalize the results. The Liberals received just 1,566 more votes across the province than the NDP from almost 1.8 million ballots.
Weaver has said the major demands his party will be seeking in a minority government include being granted party status in the legislature. The Greens fell one seat short of official status after the election.
The Greens also want reforms to the electoral system to allow for proportional representation and changes to party fundraising rules that allow unlimited donations from corporations, unions and individuals.
Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press
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