Weaver's BC Greens Hold Balance of Power After Final Count

Two weeks after votes were cast in the BC election, the count is finally in. BC is going to be governed by a minority government.

When British Columbians went to bed in the early hours on the 10th May, it looked like a hung legislature was probably on the cards. Probably. The governing BC Liberals held 43 seats, the BC NDP held 41 seats, and the BC Greens held the balance of power with 3 seats.

Christy Clark’s Liberals needed just one more seat to form a majority, and as 180,000 absentee ballots wended their way back to their home districts, the focus narrowed in on the Vancouver Island riding of Courtenay-Comox where the NDP led the Liberals by 9 votes.

As the absentee votes were counted over the last couple of days, there were some nervous moments for the Green and NDP supporters as the lead, which was updated every few hours on the Elections BC web site, jumped up by a few votes and then was lost by a few votes, and then was regained again. But eventually the NDP candidate Ronna-Rae Leonard pulled ahead of her Liberal rival Jim Benninger.

At 4.30pm, on Wednesday 24th May, Leonard was declared winner and the possibility of a Liberal majority slipped away with a margin of victory of 189 votes.

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For Weaver’s Greens, these are heady times. The Greens only managed to add two more seats than they held before - but the three of them, Adam Olsen, Sonia Furstenau and Weaver, are in the sweetest spot in the legislature.

They hold the balance of power, wooed from left and from right.

The Greens best chance was always going to be as “honest broker” in a minority or coalition government. What that government will look like remains to be seen, although most bets are on an NDP-Green coalition of some sort, given that their platforms are closely aligned in many areas such as getting big money out of election campaign financing, halting the expansion of the Kinder Morgan diluted bitumen pipeline, and electoral reform.

Electoral reform may be the biggest stumbling block.

If the recent election had been on a proportional system the seat distribution would be more like:

BC Liberals: 35
BC NDP: 35
BC Greens: 15
Others: 2
Total: 87

The Greens may have won more seats, as fears of “splitting the vote” or “wasting” your vote on a Green candidate - a line which the NDP plied relentlessly in the last week of the campaign - would be much less of an issue under a proportional system.

BC has had two referendums on proportional representation in 2005 and 2009. They both failed, some say were designed to fail, and another referendum could easily make it three fails.

Weaver has said he isn’t against a referendum on electoral reform. He just wants to have electoral reform introduced before the referendum so people can try it. Horgan has maintained that he wouldn’t introduce PR without a referendum.

Christy Clark has said little on the subject. But it was the Liberals that introduced the previous two referendums so perhaps her party can be persuaded to back electoral reform with a referendum after it is introduced, not before?

Discussions will continue around a long list of different issues, but for the Greens to build on today's breakthrough for "a new way for doing politics" then a successful transition to a new electoral system will be key.