B.C. election ends in minority government

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Jeff Lagerquist,
Published Tuesday, May 9, 2017 10:29PM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, May 10, 2017 4:00AM EDT

British Columbia’s election is expected to result in a minority government — though it remains unclear how that will take shape.

It’s the first time a B.C. election has finished in a minority since the 1952 vote.

As of midnight, the Liberals had 43 seats, the NDP held 41 and the Green Party three. Forty-four seats are needed for a majority.

A minority government places significant power in the hands of the Green Party. Leader Andrew Weaver did not elaborate on how his party will proceed, saying only that “any outcome will require a firm commitment to immediately ban big money,” a reference to B.C.’s lack of restrictions on party donations.

“I reached out to John Horgan and Christie Clark to congratulate them on a hard fought campaign, and to start the conversation about the next steps for our province in the days ahead,” Weaver said.

Liberal Leader Christy Clark said she hopes to remain as premier.

“Tonight, we won the popular vote. And we have also won the most seats. And with absentee ballots yet to be counted, I am confident they will strengthen our margin of victor,” said Liberal Leader Christy Clark.

“It is my intention to continue to lead British Columbia’s government.”

In a speech touting his party’s successes, NDP Leader Andrew Horgan said, “A majority of British Columbians voted for a new government, and that’s what they deserve.”

Clark is looking to extend her party’s 16-year political dynasty with their fifth-straight general election win. Clark, who took the reins as premier in 2011, is in a close race with Horgan, who first won a legislature seat in 2005.

Clark has won her Westside-Kelowna riding. The B.C. Liberal leader famously lost her seat in the 2013 provincial vote. Her chief rival, Horgan, won with a commanding lead in Langford-Juan de Fuca.

It’s been a historic night for the Green Party, which looks to win a total of three seats. Weaver held onto his riding in Oak Bay-Gordon Head. He was the first Green MLA elected to the B.C. Legislature in 2013. He will be joined in the house by Adam Olsen, who took the riding of Saanich North and the Islands. Sonia Furstenau has won the Cowichan Valley riding.

Clark’s campaign has touted her party’s formidable track record for economic growth, as well as pledges to freeze personal income taxes, shrink taxes for small business, and deliver four more balanced budgets on top of the five they have already have in the books.

B.C.’s robust economy has grown to be the envy of most other jurisdictions with Liberal governments at the helm.

GDP growth in 2016 topped 3.7 per cent, second only to Yukon. The province also boasts one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country, at 5.5 per cent for April.

The B.C. Liberals say they plan to build on their economic legacy with an $87 million investment in the tech sector and promise to put B.C. tech and business first in line for government contracts.

Unfortunately for Clark, the boom-time benefits have not been evenly distributed across the province. Many communities outside the prosperous Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island lag far behind. Unemployment was as high as 9.7 per cent in the province’s north, for example.

That disconnect has helped Horgan drum up support with promises to raise the provincial minimum wage to $15 per hour, and create 96,000 construction jobs by building schools, hospitals, roads and rapid transit.

While the Liberals have largely elected to stand fast on taxes, the NDP platform calls for adding $530 million to provincial causers in the current fiscal year, with 60 per cent of that revenue streaming in from a range of tax hikes on personal incomes and businesses.

The BC Green Party, led by Andrew Weaver, has countered the Liberal and NDP proposals with plans to implement a basic income for those between 18 and 24, add a $205 monthly benefit for low-income families, as well as other investment aimed at creating more jobs for high school and undergraduate students, and improving access to job training for workers threatened by increasing automation.

The Greens have been light on specifics regarding tax changes throughout the campaign. However, they have announced intentions to hike income taxes on those earning $108,460 per year by one per cent in the current fiscal year, increasing to that figure to 3 per cent by 2020. They would also hike property transfer taxes and introduce new measures to combat real estate speculation.

Housing affordability and the frenzied pace of investment fueling key B.C. real estate markets have sent shockwaves reaching far beyond the province’s borders. The Liberal have not hinted at further interventions beyond the current 15 per cent tax on foreign buyers in the Vancouver region, interest-free loans for first-time homebuyers, and about $1 billion towards increasing affordable rental inventory.

The NDP has announced plans to create nearly 114,000 affordable housing units over the next decade, as well as benefits for renters that include a $400 annual grant, and greater focus on speculative real estate investment.

The Green Party has taken a more bellicose stance on housing, pledging to up the foreign buyers’ tax to 30 per cent and extend it across the province, on top of progressively heavier property transfer taxes. Like the NDP, they are also in favour of further taxes on speculators.

Like the affordable housing issue, B.C.’s opioid crisis represents another policy-area where the province’s actions have had a reverberating effect across the country. B.C. remains in the throes of the worst overdose crisis on record, despite having declared a public health emergency more than a year ago.

The Liberals have responded with broader access to opiate-substitution drugs and naloxone kits to revive overdose victims, established the B.C. Centre on Substance Use, as well as new safe-injection sites. The party’s platform includes a promise to confirm $165 million for youth mental health needs and substance abuse issues.

The NDP has also called for greater focus on the mental health aspects of addiction, advocating for the creation of a ministry dedicated to the issue, added intervention resources for schools, and targeted police actions to disrupt drug supply chains.

The Green Party is also in favour of creating a new mental health and addiction-based ministry, and early intervention initiatives. It is the only party advocating greater access to prescription heroin. Andrew Weaver is the only major party leader voicing support for the decriminalization of drugs.

Energy has also been a hot topic on the campaign trail, representing yet another provincial issue of broader importance.

The fate of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion likely hangs in the balance of the election result, with the Liberals giving the proposal a conditional thumbs up, and the NDP leader promising to “use every tool in the toolbox” to stop the project from moving forward. John Horgan has not provided specific details as to how that would play out.

The $7.4 billion expansion of the Alberta-to-Burnaby, B.C. oil artery has secured federal approval from both the National Energy Board and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government.

Support from the B.C. Liberals hinges on their so-called five conditions, which focus on environmental safeguards. The Green Party is against the pipeline expansion.

The parties are also split over the province’s carbon tax. The Liberals wish to hold the $30 per tonne rate, which been in place since 2012. The NDP is calling for a series of annual increases starting in 2020. The Greens have proposed a more aggressive timetable for hiking the tax beginning in 2018.

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B.C. election ends in minority government

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