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BC Liberals gather for caucus meeting

Kootenay East MLA-designate Tom Shypitka meets with Premier Christy Clark
BC Premier Christy Clark speaks at a BC Liberal rally at Auntie Barb’s Bakery in Cranbrook, Sunday, April 30

The provincial election results have been finalized and it’s official — the BC Liberals will be given the opportunity to form a minority government by Lieutenant Governor Judith Guichon.

The outcome was in doubt following a final count of the vote, which included absentee ballots. A race on Vancouver Island was initially decided in favour of the NDP by only nine votes and the absentee ballots — which were not counted on election night — could have flipped the riding to the BC Liberals, giving them a majority government.

However, the initial seat count will stand, giving the Liberals 43 ridings, 41 to the NDP and three to the Greens.

Tom Shypitka, who won Kootenay East with 56 per cent of the vote in the riding for the BC Liberals, is currently in Vancouver for a caucus meeting, where his fellow party MLAs are meeting newly elected members and planning for the future.

Shypitka had the chance to meet with Premier Christy Clark on Thursday to talk about his role going forward.

“We just talked about everything from personal goals to priorities with the region and it was just more or less a meet-and-greet,” Shypitka said. “She was very positive; Christy Clark is an amazing leader. She sees the positive in everything. I really think we can take this minority government and turn it into something really positive for everybody.”

While the BC Liberals will get the first crack at forming a minority government, there is a province-wide political chess match happening between the three major parties.

With 43 seats, the Liberals do not meet the majority threshold of 44, meaning that they need the support of either the NDP or the Greens to pass major legislation.

Currently, Green Party leader Andrew Weaver is courting negotiations with both the Liberals and the NDP, which carries a huge implication for forming government. If the Greens throw their support to the NDP, that will give the coalition enough seats to govern and pass legislation.

“We really don’t know what’s happening yet because the Greens haven’t yet decided on where they’re going to throw their vote,” Shypitka said. “They may throw it towards the NDP, they may throw it towards the Liberals, they may throw it to themselves.

“So two out of three of those scenarios would give us government, the only thing that wouldn’t give us government is if the Greens went with the NDP and that would be a very unstable government.”

Weaver is expected to let both the Liberals and the NDP know where the Greens will give their support by next week.

For his part, Shypitka is hopeful for the Liberals’ chances of forming a majority government with Green support.

“I think at best, we’re going to be looking at a majority government with the Greens jumping onside,” he said. “…It really is a hurry-up-and-wait scenario. We are motionless until there is a definitive answer from the Greens on which way they want to proceed.”

He cites a few areas of common interest where the two parties can work together, namely on the environment and balancing budgets.

“There are a lot of commonalities between us and the Greens; the environment — I think the BC Liberals have proven with their policies that we can balance the economy with the environment,” Shypitka said. “We’ve got lots of safeguards in place and lots of meaningful regulations that define that balance.

“Another commonality is budgets. I think the Greens are fine with having balanced budgets and strong economies that we have right now so between those two, I think we can find a lot of common ground there, for sure.”

Despite the challenges of the political map, Shypitka says he sees opportunity.

“I think the [voters] of BC have strongly indicated they want parties to work together and find that true balance,” Shypitka said. “I think that’s where we sit right now. We’re in a situation where we’re all going to have to get to work, we’re all going to have to roll up our sleeves. There’s going to be no easy answers, but I think in the long run, it’s going to be the best for British Columbians and I think if the BC Liberals get to that majority, you’ll see just that.”

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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