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COLUMN: Big money in B.C. politics is over

It’s been 65 years since so much uncertainty immediately following a provincial election

It’s been 65 years since there was this much uncertainty following the results of a provincial election.

On June 12, 1952, B.C. voters used the new transferable ballot system and, after numerous rounds of counting, a brand-new Social Credit minority government was in place. It took weeks to determine which party won – but at the end of all the counts, the Socreds had 19 seats and the CCF (forerunner of the NDP) had 18.

“I don’t know what government we got. I don’t know what government we didn’t get. I don’t know what government we are going to get,” Barry Mather wrote in the Vancouver Sun, the day after the 1952 election.

This year isn’t much different, at least thus far.

We don’t know what government we will have after the absentee ballots are counted in two weeks – NDP candidate Ronna-Rae Leonard won Courtenay-Comox by nine votes, BC Liberal candidate Jim Benninger is the former commanding officer at CFB Comox, and many members of the military almost certainly voted via absentee ballots.

We do know this. The era of big money in B.C. politics is over. Even if the BC Liberals manage to squeak out a majority government (they need one more seat to do so), it cannot be business as usual. Dinners with party leaders (particularly BC Liberal Leader Christy Clark) at $10,000 a plate won’t be happening.

Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver’s party holds the balance of power right now, and he has made it clear that any support his party offers will be very conditional on ending donations from businesses and unions. This is something the NDP concurs with.

There will be plenty of pressure to change the electoral system. It will be interesting to see just how that proceeds. It is a potential deal-breaker for the Green Party, if the other two parties don’t co-operate.

There will also be plenty of uncertainty. Even if the BC Liberals do get a majority, it will be very tenuous. A BC Liberal speaker may be forced to break numerous tie votes. Attendance in the House will be crucial. Any vacancies that occur due to resignations or death could lead to an early election.

The NDP did very well in Surrey and Delta, with Ravi Kahlon easily beating Scott Hamilton in Delta North, cabinet ministers Peter Fassbender and Amrik Virk falling in Surrey-Fleetwood and Surrey-Guildford and Jinny Sims comfortably winning Surrey-Panorama.

Leader John Horgan very successfully targeted the BC Liberal government over increasing MSP premiums, boosting BC Hydro rates, boosting ICBC rates, standing by as housing became unaffordable for many people, charging people in Surrey, Langley and Maple Ridge bridge tolls while giving others a free pass, ignoring the high cost and limited availability of child care and many other issues.

Clark said early Wednesday, as the final initial results were posted, that voters “want us to do things differently” and “want us to focus on things that matter to working people.”

There will have to be more co-operation among the parties, something that is not traditionally part of hardball B.C. politics. Even if the BC Liberals do pull off a slim majority, the government will have to do more to help people keep money in their pockets, and ensure that housing is both available and affordable.

Frank Bucholtz writes Wednesdays for Peace Arch News, as well as at – email