Some of the news outlets that breathlessly covered the recent B.C. election as if it was a sporting event had trouble digesting the final score.
It’s 43-41-3. The B.C. Liberals got the most votes and the most seats. They won. Christy Clark is still premier, until the B.C. Liberal government is defeated in a confidence vote in the legislature, or she decides to resign as party leader.
We will see results of this in the days ahead. Even without the support of three B.C. Green Party MLAs, who announced Monday they will support the NDP, I expect Clark will convene the legislature in what amounts to a game of Who Wants Another Election?
There are strategic reasons for this. The most obvious one is that while the B.C. Liberals raised more money than they were allowed to spend in the formal campaign, the Greens and the NDP are likely broke if not in debt.
Another one is that any coalition deal between the Greens and the NDP produces a 44-43 split, a situation as fragile as the one Clark faces.
During the tense two weeks that followed election day, the possibility of a slim B.C. Liberal majority thanks to Courtenay-Comox kept all sides from making any serious commitments.
What we got were platitudes from Clark about the message from voters being about cooperation, ill-advised bluster from B.C. Green Party leader Andrew Weaver about forcing a change to the voting system without a referendum, and hollow rhetoric from NDP leader John Horgan that almost 60 per cent of voters rejected the B.C. Liberals.
In fact a larger number of voters rejected the NDP.
Does Green support from 16.8 per cent of voters, much of it in and around the comfortable isolation of southern Vancouver Island, translate into a mandate for them to adjust the voting system in their favour? Self-serving nonsense.
Does a switch from NDP to Green in two South Island constituencies signal voters’ desire for an NDP-Green coalition? Likely the opposite.
The most significant results of B.C.’s 2017 election were new votes attracted by the Greens, and a substantial number of B.C. Liberal supporters who appear to have stayed home.
I suspect many of those B.C. Liberal supporters were complacent in their belief that the woman in the blue hardhat was cruising to victory. But my subjective guesses are worth the same as those of political science profs who have filled the media space in the past couple of weeks.
Much has been made of the almost exact split in popular vote, 40.36 per cent for the B.C. Liberals and 40.28 for the NDP. Province-wide popular vote is another standard media horse-race topic, but it means nothing in practical and legal terms.
It’s more useful to consider the rural-urban divide. Horgan made a couple of token swings into the B.C. Interior, campaigned against an oil pipeline expansion approved by the presiding jurisdiction in Ottawa, continued his soft opposition to the Site C dam, and benefited from electoral boundary changes in the Fraser Valley and Metro Vancouver.
Clark worked the B.C. Interior hard, and was rewarded with a near-sweep of seats beyond Hope. Another notable result of the 2017 election is that areas enjoying nation-leading urban prosperity after 16 years of B.C. Liberal rule turned away from them, while the Interior regions struggling with high unemployment and depopulation supported an industrial jobs agenda in larger numbers than 2013.
We’ll have another election sooner rather than later, and more people will pay attention.
Tom Fletcher is B.C. legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @tomfletcherbc