VANCOUVER—British Columbia faces a two-week period of uncertainty until the final results are in from its tight election race and it becomes clearer whether the province has a minority or majority government.
Premier Christy Clark spoke to the lieutenant-governor yesterday after the Liberals squeaked out a razor-thin victory over the NDP on Tuesday, leaving the province with its first minority government in 65 years if the results don't change.
The premier's office said Lt.-Gov. Judith Guichon has asked Clark to continue governing after the election.
Clark's party won 43 seats while the NDP led by John Horgan collected 41 and the Greens under Andrew Weaver won three ridings in the 87-seat legislature.
The Liberals only need one more seat for a majority.
But the results will remain unclear for at least two weeks until absentee ballots are counted, which could flip close ridings including Courtenay-Comox, where the NDP won by nine votes.
Even after the final results are announced May 24, tight finishes could trigger judicial recounts.
After the results were in, Horgan said the outcome shows British Columbians want a change in government after 16 years under the Liberals.
But Clark had a different interpretation, saying she reads the results as a plea to the major parties to work together more effectively.
Asked directly several times yesterday if she accepts personal responsibility for the Liberals' showing, Clark avoided a direct answer.
“British Columbians sent a very strong message to all sides of the legislature,” she replied.
“They want us to work together collaboratively and across partisan lines,” added Clark, who was trying to win the party's fifth-straight majority government.
The Liberals lost seats in Metro Vancouver and a number of cabinet ministers were defeated.
Clark said there are 51,000 votes still to be counted. The difference between the Liberals and NDP in the popular vote on Tuesday was about 17,800 votes in favour of Clark's party.
With three seats, the Green Party holds the balance of power in the legislature—a remarkable position for Weaver after becoming the first Green elected four years ago.
Clark said she intends to sit down with Weaver to talk about working together.
But don't expect negotiations on the possible framework of a minority government to start until after the dust settles, said Richard Johnston, a political scientist at the University of British Columbia.
“It's entirely possible, first of all, that it won't be a minority government,” he noted.
“Substantively, it's easier to imagine a deal between the Greens and the NDP—not personality wise but on substance,” Johnston added.
“John Horgan has already signalled the basis of the deal.”
Horgan said in his speech after the results that a majority of British Columbians voted for a new government and that needs to be considered.
He said voters want changes to political fundraising laws and electoral reform—two of the Green Party's priorities.
Johnston said if the results remain a Liberal minority government with the Greens holding the balance of power, Weaver has to be careful.
Supporting minority governments usually is perilous for the smaller parties, he noted.
In Weaver's case, that also could mean supporting the NDP to achieve his goals.
“If the results are as they are now, 43 seats for the Liberals, that means that in order to effect the change that I think Weaver reasonably interprets the electorate to have called for does require him to support the loser,” Johnston explained.
“Optically, that's not great.”