At approximately 12:25 a.m., Pacific Time, the TV networks covering the nail-biter of a British Columbia election went live to B.C. Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver. Having doubled his party's vote count, tripled its seats – to three – and now seemingly holding the balance of power in a minority legislature, he was mounting the stage to deliver his victory speech. The province was watching; many voters remain unfamiliar with the third party and the man who leads it.
At 12:26 a.m., before Mr. Weaver had the chance to get more than a few words out of his mouth, the television feeds cut away from Green Party HQ. Up on the province's TV screens popped New Democratic Party Leader John Horgan – delivering his victory speech. The head of the province's second party had, by no coincidence, picked this precise moment to address his supporters, and all of B.C. The networks switched to Mr. Horgan; few heard or saw Mr. Weaver live.
In the 2017 election, the Greens ate into the NDP vote, and likely denied the NDP a majority government. And now on election night, the NDP were understandably trying to prevent the Greens from sucking up any more of the province's limited supply of political oxygen.
B.C. politics has always been unique, and at times uniquely weird. But it has never seen an election like this, or an election night like this.
B.C. is facing its first minority government in more than 60 years. It is also facing the possibility of not having its first minority government in more than 60 years – and instead seeing the Liberals returned to office with a slim majority. There are tens of thousands of absentee ballots still to be counted, several extremely tight races and at least one judicial recount pending. As a result, the election's outcome will remain undecided for at least two weeks. It isn't over until it's over – and this election isn't close to being over.
And the politicking is just beginning.
That's why all three party leaders delivered victory speeches. Liberal Leader Christy Clark claimed that she had won and that, as the party with the most seats – Liberals lead in 43 out of 87 ridings, one shy of a majority – she intended to govern.
The Greens' Mr. Weaver claimed victory; after all, his party, a perpetual also-ran, now held the balance of power, assuming Wednesday morning's results stood.
And the NDP's Mr. Horgan was also triumphant. He celebrated denying the Liberals a majority, the possibility that he could end up governing after talks with the Greens – and the fact that the election outcome remains uncertain, with so many votes still to be counted.
All parties are winners, and all will have prizes. The losers? Anyone who expected election night to decide things.
A lot of British Columbians vote by absentee or special voting ballot: More than 170,000 in the last election, in 2013, or nearly 10 per cent of all ballots cast. And B.C. doesn't count those votes until two weeks after polls close. That means there are still a lot of uncounted votes out there – enough to swing close races.
And after tallying all the regular ballots, there are at least three races close enough to be swung. In Courtney-Comox, the NDP candidate is ahead of the Liberal by just nine votes. In Maple Ridge-Mission, the NDP lead over the Liberals is just 120 votes. In Coquitlam-Burke Mountain, the Liberals are ahead of the NDP by 170 votes.
It's still possible that the final election result, two weeks hence, could be a squeaker of a Liberal majority. But if the current tally holds, it means a big shift in B.C. politics, with consequences for the province and the country.
On the plus side, a minority government means that B.C. is finally going to get big money out of politics. The Greens and the NDP won't let the Liberals drag their feet any longer.
On pipelines, however, the two parties on the left could impose policy gridlock. The Liberals haven't said yes to every pipeline, but they have said yes to the easiest one to approve: the expansion of the existing Trans Mountain line. In a minority government, Trans Mountain could be doomed, with the Greens and NDP opposed.
The death of the least controversial oil pipeline would be a serious problem for Alberta's NDP. It would make life challenging for the federal NDP, and destroy the Trudeau government's fragile pro-oil, pro-carbon-taxes script.
At the same time, the Green breakthrough in B.C., and the legitimacy the Greens will get from holding the balance of power, is a huge challenge to the NDP, provincially and nationally.
Above all, a minority government turns all three B.C. parties into potential allies, enemies and frenemies. The cards are still being dealt, but the political games have already started.