Local NDP wins will test Clark’s Island platform, says expert

Have Greens become the opposition?

Michael Prince, a professor in the faculty of human and social development at the University of Victoria.

Michael Prince, a professor in the faculty of human and social development at the University of Victoria.

Tim Collins


After a 28-day campaign in which Christy Clark’s Liberal government sought a fifth consecutive mandate, it appears the electorate will have to wait up to 14 days longer to determine who will lead the province and whether that leadership will take the form of a minority, majority, or coalition government.

The uncertain future of the government stems from a very close race between the Liberals and the NDP and a historic surge in support for the Green Party.

As of midnight Wednesday, Clark and her Liberals had won a minority government, elected in 43 of B.C.’s 87 ridings, compared to 41 for the NDP and three for the Green Party. It takes 44 seats to form a majority government.

But those numbers could change. A very narrow vote spread in a number of ridings won by the NDP could conceivably result in a shift, granting the Liberals a slim majority in the legislature once absentee ballots are counted and a series of judicial recounts are initiated.

According to Michael Prince, a professor at the University of Victoria, the biggest story of the night might be the surge of support for the Green Party.

“The Greens doubled their support to a record 16 per cent of the electorate and managed to win three seats on Vancouver Island. That’s a historic win for them but it puts Green leader Andrew Weaver in a difficult position,” explained Prince.

Weaver has the option of keeping the Liberals in power while trying to influence policy on an issue-byissue basis, said Prince, noting that historically, a third party that keeps a governing party in power in a minority situation tends to pay the price in the next election.

“They could also choose to seek a formal coalition with the NDP but that would have to be a part of a formal agreement where perhaps Weaver gets a cabinet position and some formal agreement on how to proceed on key issues like Kinder Morgan, the Site C dam, election reform and political finance regulations…all motherhood issues for the Greens,” said Prince.

Another consideration for voters in Victoria and Esquimalt lies in the fact that Esquimalt-Metchosin, Victoria-Swan Lake, and Victoria-Beacon Hill ridings all returned the incumbent NDP candidates to power.

Prince pointed out that the results mean the Township of Esquimalt will get its mayor back. Barb Desjardins, who took leave to run for the Liberals in the riding of Esquimalt-Metchosin, will return to her position as mayor, after being defeated by the NDP’s Mitzi Dean.

“The NDP sweep of the Victoria ridings can have an impact on those communities as a Liberal government will have to decide how much they are willing to work cooperatively and pay attention to issues in orange ridings,” said Prince.

“Clark and the Liberals had an Island platform that they touted during the campaign but, having lost those seats, the question is whether they’ll be held to those promises on issues like transportation and housing.Words are one thing. We’ll see if it translates into actions in ridings that are solidly NDP.”


Have Greens become the opposition?

According to Michael Prince, a Lansdowne Professor of Social Policy at the University of Victoria, the 2017 provincial election may have marked a turning point for the Green Party. Surging to a historic high of 16 per cent of the vote, the Greens managed to elect candidates in three ridings, all on Vancouver Island.

But it may be just as important to the political landscape, said Prince, to note the popularity of the Green Party in other ridings.

In Esquimalt-Metchosin, the Green Party matched the percentage of votes received by the Liberals, and in Victoria-Swan Lake and Victoria-Beacon Hill they doubled the percentage received by the Liberals.

“That’s the sort of result that can have people taking a second, and even third look at the Greens when they next head to the polls. They’re not that third party without a chance of getting elected any longer, and, if they manage the message right, they could build on that perspective in the next election to capture even more seats,” said Prince, adding that they have become the opposition in those ridings.