BC Election 2017  

Liberals retain minority

The final count for the provincial election is in – and nothing has changed.

Elections BC reports that after absentee ballots were counted and recounts conducted, the standings remain the same: BC Liberals 43 seats, BC NDP 41 seats, and the BC Greens three seats.

Premier Christy Clark issued the following statement:

"I want to congratulate all candidates, from all parties, who put their names forward to run. It’s not easy, and they deserve our gratitude for working to make our province even better.

“With 43 BC Liberal candidates elected as MLAs, and a plurality in the legislature, we have a responsibility to move forward and form a government."

There will be no automatic judicial recounts. The district electoral officer must apply for a judicial recount if the difference between the top two candidates is less than 1/500 of the total ballots considered, or if there is a tie. No electoral districts meet this criteria.

Clark continued: “The final result reinforces that British Columbians want us to work together, across party lines, to get things done for them.

“Our priority is to protect our strong economy and to manage BC’s finances responsibly, while listening closely to British Columbians on how we address important social and environmental priorities and how we can make BC politics more responsive, transparent, and accountable.

“The work is just beginning. My team and I look forward to delivering positive results for British Columbians.”

But NDP Leader John Horgan said the results of the election show voters want change and he believes he can work with Green Leader Andrew Weaver to govern.

"British Columbians have voted overwhelmingly to replace Christy Clark's Liberals with a new government that works better for families," he said.

Michael Prince, a social policy expert at the University of Victoria, said Clark is also gambling that British Columbians are not in the mood to head back to the polls and the longer she can stay in power, the better are her chances of winning another election.

"I think she'll be hoping there'll be no appetite for an instant election," he said. "She can try to bring in a throne speech and a budget with a lot of green tinges."

The popular vote tightened as Elections BC finished counting almost 180,000 absentee ballots to finalize the results. The Liberals received just 1,566 more votes across the province than the NDP from almost 1.8 million ballots.

Weaver has said the major demands his party will be seeking in a minority government include being granted party status in the legislature. The Greens fell one seat short of official status after the election.

The Greens also want reforms to the electoral system to allow for proportional representation and changes to party fundraising rules that allow unlimited donations from corporations, unions and individuals.

with files from The Canadian Press

Liberals hit 44... for now

The BC Liberals have gained a slight advantage in the closest race in this year's provincial election.

As tens of thousands of absentee ballots continue to be counted, the Liberals have inched ever so slightly ahead in Courtenay-Comox, the tightest of the 87 ridings up for grabs.

Figures released at noon Tuesday show Liberal candidate Jim Benninger with a slim three-vote edge over NDP contender Ronna-Rae Leonard.

On election night, Leonard held a nine-vote edge over Benninger. That grew to 12 when votes were recounted Monday. The pendulum has swung the other way as absentee ballots are counted, and added to the total.

With counting still going on, the Liberal gap in Richmond-Queensborough has shrunk to just 100 votes.

On election night, the Liberals were one seat short of a skinny majority. They held 43 seats, the NDP 41 and the Green Party three.

About 180,000 absentee ballots are being counted.

Forty-four seats are needed to hold a slim majority.

All votes are expected to be counted and posted by Elections BC by Wednesday.

Clark: leader talks 'friendly'

British Columbia's premier says she's spoken with leaders of the province's other political parties about how to move forward following last week's tight election.

Christy Clark says they were friendly conversations and that she told the other leaders the results of the election suggest British Columbians want the parties to work together.

But Christy Clark says she'll wait until final vote tallies come in next week before saying what her party is ready to do to stay in power in a possible minority government.

The Liberals won 43 seats, one seat shy of a majority, while the NDP got 41 though the outcome remains unclear while 176,000 absentee ballots are counted.

Green horse-trading begins

While British Columbia's Liberals and New Democrats are gridlocked as they await the final ballot count from last week's tight election, the Green party is setting priorities to use the leverage its three newly elected members achieved.

The splintered election result could leave the upstart Greens with the balance of power in a minority government, and leader Andrew Weaver is pondering a series of chess moves that could shake the direction of the province.

Green party deputy leader Matt Toner says they are looking for specific proposals from the Liberals and New Democrats on electoral and campaign-finance reforms before supporting either party in the legislature.

Toner says the Greens want to see firm details of potential co-operation agreements before deciding where to throw their support in what will be a historic period in B.C. politics.

Glen Sanford, the NDP's deputy director, says the party is reaching out to the Greens, but until the election results are final, potential deals can't be reached.

A senior Liberal communications strategist who didn't want to be named says leader Christy Clark is prepared to reach across party lines to work with the Greens.

Recounts in two ridings

Elections BC says it has rejected four of the six requests for recounts in ridings where the outcome in this week's election was determined by fewer than 600 votes.

Two requests were submitted for the riding of Vancouver-False Creek, and one for Coquitlam-Burke Mountain, Courtenay-Comox, Maple Ridge-Mission, and Richmond-Queensborough.

Recounts will go ahead for Vancouver-False Creek and Courtenay-Comox and are to take place between May 22 and 24.

Recount requests are accepted if the difference between the top two candidates is 100 votes or fewer, or if there were errors with accepting votes, rejecting ballots or discrepancies between the ballot count and number of votes for a candidate.

Elections BC says not all requests met the 100 vote or fewer criteria or provided enough evidence that ballots were improperly accepted or recorded.

Applicants can still request a judicial recount up to six days after the final count is released on May 24.

NDP seeks 3 recounts

B.C.'s two major political parties are still battling to win the election days after the polls closed, with the NDP requesting recounts in three close ridings.

The New Democrats say they have submitted a formal request to Elections BC for recounts in the ridings of Coquitlam-Burke Mountain, Vancouver-False Creek and Richmond-Queensborough.

After general and advance ballots were counted Tuesday, the Liberals were ahead by 170 votes in Coquitlam-Burke Mountain, 560 votes in Vancouver-False Creek and 263 votes in Richmond-Queensborough.

Elections BC has since updated the totals for Coquitlam-Burke Mountain, widening the lead for Liberal Joan Isaacs by 268 votes.

On Thursday, Liberal Jim Benninger requested a recount in Courtenay-Comox, where he lost by nine votes, and it will take place during the final count between May 22 and 24.

Christy Clark's Liberals are one seat shy of a majority government with 43 seats, while John Horgan's New Democrats have 41 and Andrew Weaver's Greens hold the balance of power with three.

All eyes are on the final count in 10 days, when 176,000 absentee ballots will be tallied.

NDP provincial director Raj Sihota says in a statement the party is working hard to ensure every last vote is counted properly.

"In an election this close, British Columbians deserve to have full confidence in the results, and that means ensuring the ballots in close races are counted thoroughly and carefully."

Election turnout 60%

Elections BC says preliminary data from Tuesday's provincial election suggests registered voter turnout was about 60 per cent.

It marks a slight increase from turnout in the 2013 election when 57 per cent of registered voters cast ballots.

The early estimate calculates the number of registered voters as of April 11, expected additional registrants on election day, ballots submitted in advanced voting and election day polls, as well as preliminary data on absentee ballots.

Elections BC says a more accurate estimate will be released after May 24 when the final count of absentee ballots is complete.

A final figure that includes the total number of eligible voters on election day will be available in late August.

Voter turnout has been on the decline since 1983, when 77.7 per cent of registered voters cast ballots.

Absentees to decide vote

For the first time in British Columbia's modern history, a provincial election will be decided by the tens of thousands of absentee ballots that are usually an afterthought for most people.

After advance and general voting ballots were counted on Tuesday, Christy Clark's Liberals squeaked out a minority government with 43 seats compared with the NDP's 41 and the Greens' three.

But more than 176,000 absentee ballots are still to be counted and a handful of seats were decided by fewer than 300 votes, including Courtenay-Comox, where the NDP won by just nine votes.

The Liberals need only one more seat for a majority government, but Elections BC has until May 24 to release the final results.

The final count has flipped individual seats before, but political scientist David Moscrop of the University of British Columbia says this is the first time in memory that absentee ballots have generated this level of anticipation.

In Courtenay-Comox, there were 3,500 absentee ballots cast in 2013 and they slightly favoured the NDP, tightening Liberal Don McRae's margin of victory by less than one percentage point.

He made health an issue

Boundary-Similkameen's Independent candidate Dr. Peter Entwistle kept an eye on the results of the election through sideways glances while working at the South Okanagan General Hospital's emergency department on Tuesday.

While B.C. NDP Leader John Horgan expended considerable resources in the sparsely populated riding, paying a visit at least twice during the campaign, the riding re-elected B.C. Liberal Party candidate Linda Larson for a second term, with 43 per cent of the vote. NDP candidate Colleen Ross followed at 33 per cent, while Entwistle finished with 14 per cent and B.C. Green Party candidate Vonnie Lavers finished with 10 per cent.

The hospital's former chief of staff made waves in the riding by resigning from the position in protest over potential removal of physical hospital beds and entering the race for that seat. And while Entwistle garnered just around 3,000 votes in the riding, he's calling it a success.

"It's amazing that a campaign that started so late, that was an independent campaign that had no resources was able to get so much support in such little time," he said. 

"That kind of implies that the issues that we were talking about struck a resonance and mattered to a lot of people."

Still, Entwistle says he's disappointed by not being elected MLA in the riding, but adds that his running and making a wave in the riding may inspire a more active role in protecting health services in the region from Larson.

"I'm hoping that she'll be able to work with the physicians and the health authority to address the issues at our hospital," he said. "I think we all accept that health is a big issue throughout the province, and we need a really good strategy to address the issues."

Now that the election is over, Entwistle says not campaigning is "a bit of a relief," as he wore several hats at various times throughout the election, including working as a doctor in the ER.

"I think (I will take) less of an activism role and more continuing to look to work with people to improve the health care for people in our communities," he said. "It's in my nature to lead by example."

One of the issues he wants to focus on, now, is that of addictions, as the overdose crisis continues to ravage the province.

Next up, he says he'll be heading to the RBC Cup for the Penticton Vees both as a fan and as a doctor.

"So, that's a silver lining of not winning the election."

4 cabinet ministers get boot

If Christy Clark is able to form another government, she'll have to do so minus four key cabinet ministers who went down to defeat Tuesday night.

Peter Fassbender, Ministry of Community and Sport, and Translink, Suzanne Anton, Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Amrik Virk, Minister of Technology, Innovation & Citizens' Services, and Naomi Yamamoto, ironically, considering the state of the Southern Interior, Minister of State for Emergency Preparedness.

Two other members of cabinet, Bill Bennett, Energy and Mines Minister, and Health Minister Terry Lake, chose not to run for re-eletion.

That works out to more than a quarter of the 22 sitting cabinet ministers who will need to be replaced, from a smaller pool of candidates which has shrunk from 48 at the dissolution of the legislature to 43 as of election night.

That number could change as recounts are conducted in a handful of tight races. Absentee ballots will be counted and added to the totals between May 22 and 24.

While at least six new faces will enter cabinet, nearly one-third of the new legislature will be made up of rookie MLA's.

These new MLA's were elected after 16 former members of the legislature chose not to run again, while 11 were defeated.

According to the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, those 27 MLA's will cost taxpayers an estimated $13.3 million in pension payouts to age 80.

MLAs are eligible for pensions after six years of service. Pensions increase by the rate of inflation every year, and can be collected at age 65. Taxpayers put in roughly $4 for every $1 a politician pays into their pension account.

“It’s time to end these rich pension schemes,” said Scott Hennig, CTF Vice President, Communications. “Most Canadians are lucky if their employer matches a dollar-for-dollar RRSP. There’s no justification for taxpayers to put in $4 for every $1 an MLA chips in.”

On top of those pensions, outgoing MLAs can apply for up to $9,000 in retraining funds and are eligible for up to 15 months of severance pay (as much as $127,323 each).

Jenny Kwan, an NDP MLA for 19-years, will receive the largest payout. She is scheduled to receive an initial yearly pension payment of $75,820, with a total of $1.3 million to age 80.

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