How people elect parliaments
This month’s provincial election in British Columbia has been wrapped up after two weeks of counting postal ballots.
There are no changes to the May 9 election night results, which saw the BC Liberals holding 43 Legislative Assembly seats, the New Democratic Party 41, and the Greens holding the balance of power with 3 seats.
The electoral authorities have completed most of the final counts in the 87 legislative districts, which are decided by plurality voting (first-past-the-post).
On election night initial counts the NDP led the Liberals in the riding of Courtenay-Comox by a mere 9 votes, but in the final count concluded today the lead grew to 101 votes.
Indeed in all of the closest riding results, the postal ballots shifted the initial count margins by a few hundred votes towards the NDP and away from the Liberals by the time the final counts were concluded.
The Greens have been tentatively negotiating with both major parties, but are closer in policy programme to the NDP.
A flash petition of 25,000 voters has called on the two parties to cooperate in forming a government, but substantial policy differences remain.
The NDP and the Greens both intend to see the provinces’ electoral system reformed to one of proportional representation.
The Greens would move promptly to legislate, while the NDP policy is to put a reform to a referendum of state voters (although it says it intends to support a ‘yes’ case).
NDP Leader John Horgan has flagged he is prepared to negotiate on the referendum issue.
In Canada in recent decades electoral system reform referendums have generally served as mechanisms for blocking change.
In one referendum case in British Columbia in 2005, 59% of the provinces voters actually endorsed the adoption of a single-transferable vote electoral system, but the legislature had prescribed 60% as the required threshold, effectively weighting opponents’ votes as being worth more than the votes of voters who supported reform.
BC Liberal leader and current Premier Christy Clark has also avowed during the recent negotiations with the Greens that she personally supports electoral reform.
If the NDP and Greens do form a government, after providing one MLA to be Speaker of the Assembly the floor numbers will be Liberal opposition 43, NDP government 40, Greens 3 – a parliamentary situation requiring constant cooperation, strict attendance discipline and the regular use of the casting vote of the speaker.
If the Greens decide to let the Liberals retain government, the situation will be little different, with the Greens still needed continually for support.