The Big Picture
Election night was an undoubtedly historic night. The BC Liberals are leading in 43 ridings, the BC NDP in 41, and the BC Green Party lead in 3. “Leading” is the correct word because in many close ridings, numbers could change as absentee and other non-general ballots are counted.
Minority Government, Greens Hold Balance of Power
If all things hold, Christy Clark’s Liberals will be allowed to form a minority government, unseen in British Columbia since 1953. The Green Party may hold the balance of power, possibly making them kingmakers. The Greens may look to extract concessions from either the BC Liberals or the BC NDP in exchange for support, such as the speakership and policy planks like eliminating money in politics.
The Greens, once again, may have cost the NDP the election, as vote-splitting allowed many Liberals to win seats.
All Eyes on Courtenay
Absentee ballots have yet to be counted, they will be counted 13 days after election day. In 2013, the riding of Coquitlam–Maillardville awoke to Steve Kim defeating Selina Robinson in the preliminary count by 105 votes. After absentees were counted and a judicial recount occurred, Selina Robinson became the MLA of Coquitlam–Maillardville. Therefore, the scenario of a riding flipping is not unfathomable.
The Liberals still have a chance of winning a majority government (albeit a thin one) if they can swing the riding of Courtenay–Comox, where the NDP is leading by 9 votes. As some have mentioned, the riding is home to the Canadian Forces Base Comox, thus there may be a great many absentees, especially in favour of Liberal candidate Jim Benninger, who was the Base Commander at CFB Comox.
The Liberals’ Joan Isaacs leads incumbent Jodie Wickens by 170 votes, who won in a by-election in 2016. A recount was denied for this riding but the absentee ballots have yet to be counted.
A recount has also been requested in Maple Ridge–Mission, where the NDP’s Bob D’Eith beat Liberal incumbent Marc Dalton by just 120 votes.
A recount was accepted in Vancouver–False Creek due to counting discrepancies. The NDP’s Morgane Oger aims to become the first transgender person to be elected to any legislature in Canada, while the former Vancouver mayor Sam Sullivan looks to hold onto his seat.
Where Will It Swing?
Though it varies between ridings and years, in 2013, post-Election Day counts favoured the NDP. As mentioned previously, Coquitlam-Maillardville went from a 105-vote majority for the Liberals to a 41-vote majority for the NDP. The NDP were initially leading by only 52 votes in Saanich North and the Islands, where Gary Holman actually won by 163 votes. In Surrey–Fleetwood, the Liberals’ Peter Fassbender won by 265 in preliminary counts, but only 200 in the final count. In Delta North, the Liberals went from winning by 302 votes to 203. Similar stories played out in other Liberal victories, such as in Vancouver–Fraserview (546 to 470), Burnaby North (833 to 668), and Port Moody–Coquitlam (543 to 437).
In addition, the Liberal share also declined in Comox Valley, which may say something about what will happen this year in Courtenay–Comox. Needless to say, however, 2017 is not 2013, and the Liberal candidate then was not a former base commander at CFB Comox.
It is worth mentioning that during a 2009 recount, an NDP victory did flip to a Liberal victory.
Liberals Go Down
Former education minister who played golf to fund raise for the Liberal Party while teachers were on the picket lines was downed by former MLA Jagrup Brar in Surrey Fleetwood, part of the NDP’s huge wins in Surrey.
The surprise of the night came from North Vancouver–Lonsdale, site of the infamous #iamlinda incident, where incumbent Naomi Yamamoto lost to NDP candidate Bowinn Ma.
Another high-profile Cabinet member, Attorney General and Vancouver–Fraserview MLA Suzanne Anton, lost her seat. The BC NDP candidate George Chow was declared winner.
Predicting the Future
If the Liberals win Comox
Were the Liberals to take Comox in a recount, they would have the 44 seats necessary to form a majority, albeit a thin one and one open to rebellion.
If it stays as is, 43-41-3
If it remains as is, the Liberals can govern with a minority or seek support from the Greens. The Greens, on paper, could also form a coalition with the NDP. But that scenario is far less likely as third parties taking down the party with the most seats just looks plain bad.
Minority governments and thin-margin majorities have seldom held power for a full term. It is therefore very likely that an election will be called before 2021, most likely before the end of 2018.
Calling elections are a tricky business, however. Each party wants to take full control over BC. The Liberals can call one to try to strengthen their mandate, while the NDP and the Greens may try to oust the Liberals through a non-confidence motion.
If the NDP pick up one seat, 42-42-3
In the event of a 42-42-3 tie, the Greens would be genuine kingmakers. Although they are, policy-wise, far closer to the NDP, the Liberals could offer far more concessions than the NDP would.
The BC NDP
Horgan, in the meantime, will certainly fight until the last ballot is counted and re-counted. If it is a minority Liberal government, the NDP could look to form a coalition against the Liberals or form a formidable opposition under Horgan.
But one must consider to prospect of the NDP having to find a successor to Horgan should he not be the leader during the next election.
A few names have floated around. Most notably, Vancouver–Point Grey MLA David Eby: young, charismatic, former BC Civil Liberties Association lawyer who defeated Christy Clark in her own riding in 2013. Others have suggested NDP MPs like Burnaby South’s Kennedy Stewart.
The BC Greens
Many have called this a breakout year for the Greens, as they will most likely hold the position of kingmakers. However, this could also be a tragic year for the Greens. Not only will many view the Greens to have cost the NDP a majority, but the fact is that kingmakers generally don’t last long.
Take the United Kingdom’s centrist Liberal Democrat party, whose surge in the polls in 2010 allowed them to play kingmaker between the center-right Conservative Party and the center-left Labour Party. When the Liberal Democrats announced they would form a coalition with the Conservatives, they immediately crashed in the polls. Much of their center-right support went to the Conservatives, while those on the left, feeling betrayed, supported Labour. The Liberal Democrats were all but wiped out in the following election.
Winners and Losers
Winners: All three parties
All three leaders had reasons to declare victory Election night, and all three did. The BC Greens won more seats than ever, and now look as if they hold the balance of power. The BC Liberals remain the party with the most seats and look to form a minority. The BC NDP prevented a Liberal majority and will form their strongest opposition yet, and are in prime position to snatch power away.
Losers: British Columbia
The voters of BC lost on Election night. They have a tumultuous future ahead with unstable government and will likely go to the polls again very soon in another divisive election race. Otherwise, the only two choices are a governing party without the majority of the seats or one without the plurality, neither of which seems like the parliamentary democracy British Columbians have come to know.
The pollsters got it dead wrong in the 2013 election. They had predicted an NDP blowout and instead got a Liberal majority. This time around, they got it right. Good job, pollsters.
Losers: Urban voters
The rural-urban divide was exposed on Election night more than ever. Rural voters tended to vote Liberal, while urban and suburban voters, even those in Surrey, went NDP. But that was not enough to put the NDP over the top.
It often brings one joy when their mortal enemy gets fired. So when the voters of Surrey–Fleetwood put former Education Minister Peter Fassbender out of a job, it was party time for teachers. Not so fast, however—the current education minister still has a job.