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Greens hold the power of kingmakers

Absentee ballots yet to be counted as Liberals hold minority status in the legislature.
BC Broadcast Consortium B.C. Liberal leader Christy Clark, B.C. Green Party leader Andrew Weaver and B.C. NDP leader John Horgan.

I could be eating my words in a few weeks, but lets go off the assumption that the provincial election results from Tuesday will stand.

Initial election results have the BC Liberal party with a minority government, winning 43 seats while the BC NDP captured 41. But the real winners here was the BC Green Party, which catapulted from one to three seats after a strong showing on Vancouver Island.

Results still are not final, as there are about 174,000 absentee ballots that need to be tallied, with the final results being made available on May 24.

However, there are some initial reactions we can take away from the result.

First, the local angle.

Thanks to a 17-year legacy from retired MLA Bill Bennett, it wasn’t a stretch to predict a Liberal win in Kootenay East. In post-election interviews, even NDP candidate Randal Macnair admitted he knew he’d be in an uphill battle.

However, flipping Columbia River - Revelstoke represents a big win for Doug Clovechok and the BC Liberals, considering the riding has been orange for the last 12 years through the work of newly retired MLA Norm Macdonald.

Regionally, Michelle Mungall and Katrine Conroy were re-elected in Nelson-Creston and Kootenay West, giving the NDP a rural presence on the other side of the Purcell mountains.

Also interesting is the urban/rural divide — the Liberals won a majority of ridings in more outlying areas of the province such as north, the Interior, and the Fraser Valley. In contrast, the NDP cleaned up in the Lower Mainland and on Vancouver Island.

Circling back to the province-wide results, this election represents a big loss for the BC Liberals, given their run of four straight majority governments dating back to 2001.

Sure, the party has the majority of seats right now, however, because of their minority status, they can’t ram through whatever legislation they want unless they have a dance partner.

And something tells me they’re going to be asking the Greens to the prom.

That doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing; multi-party collaboration has gone by the wayside in recent BC political history.

However, there are a number of policy implications at stake when considering a potential tango between the BC Liberals and the BC Green Party.

Both parties vary on a wide range of issues including natural resource development, housing affordability, climate change, democratic reform, and many others.

However, there is a history of teamwork between Green Party leader Andrew Weaver — who was first elected in 2013 as the first-ever Green MLA — and Christy Clark.

The most recent example is a bill introduced by Weaver two months ago that prevents employers from requiring women high heels in the workplace. The bill died after the legislature was dissolved when the writ dropped for the election, however, it was supported by Premier Clark.

Weaver also supported the carbon tax created under former Premier Gordon Campbell and gave initial support to the Site C dam, which he eventually pulled and now opposes.

He has also given his support to two past BC Liberal budgets.

The point is that there is a history of cooperation between the Greens and the Liberals, and if BC Liberals wish to form a minority government, the Green Party will be the kingmakers.

That would give Weaver and the party a significant say on BC Liberal legislation.

But Weaver has also butted heads with the Liberals, particularly on pipeline politics; the Greens oppose Kinder Morgan as well as proposed Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) projects.

The Greens are also pushing changes to party financing, and want to ban all corporate and union donations, something that the BC Liberals are fiercely resisting.

However, it’s not just the Liberals courting the Greens; if Weaver throws his support to the NDP, it will be John Horgan forming government.

Along with the Greens, the NDP could also be called winners of the election, going from 35 seats to 41 and unseating Peter Fassbender, a high profile Liberal cabinet minister, in the process.

One can only imagine the wheeling and dealing going on between the three party leaders right now.

This whole exercise could be moot depending on what comes out of the absentee ballot count, which will be revealed in two weeks.

One such race on Vancouver Island was decided by only nine votes. Throw in some absentee ballots and that could swing it to the Liberals, who need only one more seat to claim a majority government.

But if the absentee ballots don’t swing any ridings, then BC will have to live with a minority government, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing because it forces parties to work together.

The only thing left to determine is which party goes to prom with the Greens.

Trevor Crawley

About the Author: Trevor Crawley

Trevor Crawley has been a reporter with the Cranbrook Townsman and Black Press in various roles since 2011.
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