Abbotsford’s three incumbent MLAs will return to the legislature, but it won’t be clear for another week whether they’ll remain in government, or cross the floor to the opposition benches.
BC Liberals Darryl Plecas, Mike de Jong and Simon Gibson won re-election easily in the ridings of Abbotsford South, Abbotsford West and Abbotsford-Mission, respectively.
But as de Jong spoke to supporters around 11 p.m. Tuesday, the spectre of a minority government loomed, with the Green Party holding the balance of power and possibly deciding which party would take the reigns of the province. An hour later, things somehow became even less clear when the NDP won Courtenay-Comox by just nine votes, triggering an automatic recount, the results of which won’t be known for more than a week. If that recount and newly counted absentee ballots tip the riding to the BC Liberals, that party would then have a tenuous hold on a majority government, without need of Green support.
“For 25 years I’ve been saying to students that a political scientist’s dream election is a tie election, and for a time last night it looked like it was going to be a tie,” UFV professor Hamish Telford said Wednesday morning. “The Liberals have edged ahead by two seats, so they have a minority government. Usually when we have a minority government, it’s pretty clear what’s going to happen … but the results here are so close it’s a very precarious and tenuous situation.”
He said the tightness of the result suggests the next government might be shortlived unless an agreement can be made with the Green Party.
In Abbotsford, there was much less ambiguity about who won.
With the BC Conservative Party not running any candidates locally, the BC Liberals, Greens and NDP all increased their share of ballots from 2013. Plecas, de Jong and Gibson were selected by more than 50 per cent of those who voted, but the NDP also made small gains, despite running candidates who were rarely – if at all – seen in their ridings of Abbotsford-Mission and Abbotsford South. Preet Rai, Jasleen Arora and Andrew Christie all garnered between 28 and 30 per cent of the vote in their ridings.
It was the Green Party, though, who saw the biggest gains.
Four years ago, Aird Flavelle claimed nine per cent of the vote in Abbotsford-Mission. This year, Jennifer Holmes was selected on 17 per cent of ballots. Flavelle, meanwhile, ran in Abbotsford South – where no Green had run in 2013 – and was selected by 15 per cent of voters. Kevin Eastwood, in Abbotsford West, was on 11 per cent of ballots.
Christian Heritage Party candidates picked up between two and four per cent of the vote.