Thursday, August 17, 2017

2017 BC Election: The Worst Tinder Date You’ve Ever Been On

So this summer BC had the longest and most confusing election in recent memory. Tomorrow, August 18th, will mark 100 days since what one newspaper described as “the most unusual election in B.C. history”.

Photo from

On May 9th we all voted, but the results were too close to call so this didn’t actually result in us getting a government. The Liberals got 43 seats, the Greens 3, and the NDP 41, with one seat being won by only 9 votes. Usually one party gets way more seats, and usually people win seats by thousands of votes, so 9 people making the difference between a Liberal majority or an entirely different administration forming government is basically unheard of. Political nerds everywhere lost their minds.


Because it was so close, ballots were recounted from May 22 - 24, which solidified the 43-3-41 distribution of seats from May 9th. Unfortunately that didn’t actually make anything more clear. You know in high school when you have to learn trigonometry and they tell you that you’ll use it in real life but you obviously never do? Understanding this election is like the political equivalent of having to use trigonometry to calculate a tip.

Here is a super quick summary: Basically, we elect 87 people but we actually don’t actually elect government. The 87 elected Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) then get together and elect the government themselves. A party gets to form government if they win a vote on the Throne Speech. Because there are 87 MLAs who vote on this, you need 44 people to vote in favour of a Throne Speech to win and form government. Usually one party has a majority of the seats, and so it’s pretty clear that they will form government. Since no one had a majority this time, Christy Clark, the leader of the BC Liberals got the first shot at making a speech because she was in charge last time (yes that is actually how we make decisions).


But then on May 31, before Clark could present her Throne Speech, the NDP and the Green Party signed an agreement saying that the Green Party would support the NDP by voting for them if they made a Throne Speech. The 41 NDP votes plus the 3 Green votes would add up to the 44 votes that are required to win and form government. At this point, Christy Clark could have either resigned as Premier, or presented her Throne speech anyways. She went for the speech.

christy clark bc election.jpg

The Throne Speech was read on June 22, and the house (very predictably) voted against it 44-43 one week later on June 29. This meant that Clark did not have the confidence of the house, and so the Liberal Party could not form government. At this point, Clark could either resign and ask the Lieutenant Governor (LG) to let John Horgan, the leader of the NDP, try to pass a Throne Speech, or she could ask the LG to call another election. Everything was very very dramatic.

Clark asked the LG to call an election, but the LG said no and offered John Horgan a chance to form government. This was probably the obvious choice because having another election immediately would have been, well ... terrible. That being said, it was weird. The LG represents the Queen of England, and is not elected. We also never actually wrote down rules about what she has to do, so moments like this are somewhat in a grey area. You have to look at different conventions and precedent (this is the ‘political trigonometry’ part) to figure out what should be happening here. For example, the LG going against the advice of the Premier almost never happens, although it did this one time in Newfoundland in 1908, so it’s allowed, just sometimes frowned upon. Maybe.


This brings us to where we are now, with the NDP preparing to make a Throne Speech and then form government. Mathematically they will win that vote (44-43) and when that happens we will finally have a government in place.

Maybe it's time to delete this app (for a few years).

Thanks for reading!
- Nicki

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