VANCOUVER — The final results of British Columbia’s election are still not in, but experts already see scenarios for an unstable provincial government that is unlikely to last a full four-year term.
Voters in B.C. elected their first minority government in 65 years on Tuesday, awarding the Liberals 43 seats, the NDP 41 and the Greens three.
Hamish Telford, a political scientist at the University of the Fraser Valley, said even if the Liberals take control by picking up an extra seat once absentee ballots are tallied, that would still leave the party with a razor-thin majority at 44 seats in the 87-seat legislature.
As the government, the Liberals would have to appoint a Speaker to preside over the legislature, which would thin their ranks, Telford said in an interview on Tuesday night.
And presuming the seat count remains unchanged, collaboration between the NDP and the Greens would give them 44 seats. They would also have to choose a Speaker, he added.
“All the different scenarios play out in a hung parliament,” he said, using a term to describe a situation where no single party or group of parties controls the majority of legislative or parliamentary seats.
“It’s a very unstable outcome, really.”
B.C. has only had three minority governments in its history, the most recent being in 1952.
Norman Ruff, a professor emeritus of political science at the University of Victoria, said Wednesday it’s more likely the Liberals or the NDP would enter some kind of deal with the Greens in exchange for their support in propping up the government.
“The prospects of a four-year term aren’t that great. If we are talking about an accord, it might be signed for a two-year period,” he added.
“The more likely hookup is the Liberal-Green one, just simply because of the extra two-seat cushion it would give.”
Ruff said the loss of a legislature member to take the role of Speaker wasn’t as much of a concern, because of the informal but strictly followed rule that Speakers always side with the government in the event of a tie. The greater concern is needing to have virtually everyone present at all times, regardless of illness, emergency or travelling for work, he said.
“Members get caught in the Interior and don’t get into the house for a vote,” Ruff said, using an example. “Accidents happen.”
It could take several weeks before the final seat count is confirmed once absentee votes are counted and any judicial recounts are conducted.
Many ridings were close races, none more so than Courtenay-Comox on Vancouver Island, where the NDP candidate beat the Liberal by nine votes.
— Follow @gwomand on Twitter
Geordon Omand, The Canadian Press
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