No, the Liberals didn’t win a minority government

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We don’t need to wait for the final results to know that CBC’s headline is false

When the preliminary count was completed on Tuesday night, no single party had broken the 44-seat threshold for a majority in British Columbia’s Legislative Assembly. The Liberals were in the lead with 43 seats, followed by the NDP with 41 and the Greens with 3.

It is unknown whether these totals will remain the same after the final count (which, unlike the election night results, includes absentee ballots) is completed in a couple of weeks. Until then, it is impossible to say who will end up in power. However, this has not stopped major media outlets from declaring that the outcome of the election is a Liberal minority government. This is false.

Assuming the preliminary count holds up, the outcome of the election is a hung parliament (sometimes called a minority parliament), meaning that no single party has a majority of seats. Under BC’s parliamentary system of government, elections determine the composition of the Legislative Assembly; they do not determine the composition of the government. It is up to the Legislative Assembly to determine whether Clark can continue to govern with a minority. Reporting that the election has resulted in a minority government is therefore not at all accurate.

For the time being, Clark is the premier, and will remain so until such time as she tenders her resignation to the lieutenant governor. If she wishes, she has every right to meet the legislature and test whether she has the confidence of the house. As long as she can hold the confidence of the house, she can continue to govern with a Liberal minority in the legislature.

However, this is not the only possible outcome. In the days to come, Clark may try to form a majority government through coalition with the Greens, inviting members of their caucus to join her cabinet while maintaining their party affiliation. Alternatively, being unable or unwilling to make the concessions necessary to bring the Greens into her government and anticipating inevitable defeat once the new legislature convenes, Clark may announce her resignation. In that case, the lieutenant governor, Judith Guichon, would invite John Horgan to form a government. Like Clark, Horgan would have the option of trying to keep a minority government afloat, or he might try to form a majority government through an alliance with the Greens.

So it is wrong to report that the election has resulted in a minority government. By the fall, we may very well have a Liberal minority government, but with Tuesday’s results we could just as easily have a Liberal/Green majority government, an NDP minority government, or an NDP/Green majority government. Or, if it seems no viable government can be formed with the legislature the people voted in on Tuesday, we might even be heading back to the polls.

Like Stephen Harper in 2008, Clark’s people can be expected to try to exploit the public’s unfamiliarity with situations of this type and rule out the various constitutional alternatives by portraying them as illegitimate. In this situation, the media need to be mindful of their responsibilities.

By reporting that the election has yielded a Liberal minority government, journalists risk fostering the mistaken impression that a Liberal minority government is more democratically legitimate than the alternatives. Such a false impression would be uniquely politically advantageous to the governing party. That makes it especially important for the media to take great care with the constitutional accuracy of their reporting on the election result and aftermath.

65 thoughts on “No, the Liberals didn’t win a minority government

  1. Pingback: No, the Liberals didn’t win a minority government – David dapeha's space

  2. Technically, no one can ever declare a winner on election night because the ballots are not all counted.

    Reality says the headline is correct. Sounds like the author has never experienced the situation and had to research. The author is proud of what they learned and needs to tell all the technical nuances.

    Reality, as it currently sits, the Liberal received a minority government, and the Greens hold the balance of power.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I just wanted to point out that “technical nuances” are, in fact, part of “reality”. So if the technical nuance is that nothing has been decided yet, then that is also reality.


    • This is simply not true. They won a plurality of seats. Both parties will negotiate with the greens. Wouldn’t you think the greens would be more likely to support the left than the right? It will happen the way the article says it will.


      • No it won’t. The greens already said their platform is closer to the liberals than to the NDP. Of course the liberals can still win another seat and get a full majority. Either way christy will continue to be the premier.


      • The greens already said their platform is closer to the liberals than to the NDP.

        You’re making stuff up. Documentation, please?

        What Weaver said was that he found Clark easier to work with than Horgan. Surprise, surprise! Who’d have ever thought that!

        All you have to do is compare official party platforms to see that the Greens and Liberals are nothing alike.


      • How about you watch some of the interviews with weaver? He verbally said it. Anyway He is a douche and so is Horgan. Christy is the only one worth trusting here. If you don’t like move somewhere else.


      • Christy is the only one worth trusting here.

        Wow, “Christy” and “trust” in the same sentence? That’s gotta be a first!

        And it’s clear you aren’t a teacher, or a nurse, or an environmentalist, or a farmer, or a logger — all groups Christy has betrayed.

        “Here, we’ll write this legal contract, then I’ll just legislate it away, without even talking to you!” Yea, that’s “trust” for you.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Perhaps you should go back to school. Christy can tell make those decisions alone. And besides the NDP has done worse. Have you forgotten the 90’s or were you even born yet? Are you old enough to even vote?


      • Christy can tell make those decisions alone.

        Not according to the Supreme Court of Canada, who smacked her to the tune of $300,000,000 per year and the restoration of some 2,000 teachers jobs that were illegally terminated so she could send $300,000,000 per year to her cronies running private schools.

        Them’s the facts.

        Perhaps you weren’t even born when Christy, as Education Minister, took the blatantly illegal action of unilaterally re-writing mutually negotiated teacher contracts. She did the same with nurses, who looked at the millions in legal fees that the teachers had to spend to get justice, and decided to simply take the pittance that was handed them.

        No one who has a union government job should ever trust Christy again.

        As for your personal insults, you’re on my “ignore” list now.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Re-read the article. The author understands the nuances of our system better than you think. If the count stands, Clark can only govern if she can ‘make a deal’ with one of the other two parties. Crossing the floor is a part of our system, and would be the most ‘efficient’ way for her to do this…although in this case, her odds are not good at succeeding.

      A minority government is always a coalition of some duration…..but it is equally possible for the Greens to join with the NDP, at which point Clark would have to resign…….and Hogan would be asked to form the government.

      Not understanding these niceties of our federal system is one thing. Pretending they don’t exist, when you know they do (as our media surely knows) is another. We talk about electoral reform because we know that many perspectives are disenfranchised in our ‘first past the post’ system. We feign ignorance on how coalitions are already possible, under the current system, for reasons of political partisanship.

      Christy Clark is in a much more precarious situation right now than most of us realize; and MSM is in part responsible for that public ignorance. For her to continue to govern, the Greens might also put themselves in a more precarious position than most of us realize, given MSM’s reductive analysis. If they side with Clark, one more hope for a sustainable future begins to evaporate.


  3. It’s all over at this point, but at the time you wrote this, you made very good points. My guess is that if Andrew Weaver forms any kind of coalition with the BCLIbs, he’s risking all his credibility. Green supporters traditionally are LEFT of the NDP. Horgan’s problem is that he played the Centre, and we’re seeing all around the world anti-establishment far-left and far-right movements rising up. Moderates, aside from France, aren’t winning these days. As for Weaver, I’m sure he’s wishing for proportional representation after last night’s results. 18% and only 2 seats? Right or wrong, that has to be frustrating for the Greens.

    Liked by 1 person

    • While I agree the NDP has lost much of its voting base, and more importantly its volunteer army by trying in vain to win favour with the corporate elite, they are still far left of the Greens. As long as the Greens continue to spout anti-union rhetoric, there is no way a coalition government will be formed. The BC Liberals don’t have to form a coalition to form government, all they have to do is keep the Greens voting with them, which historically, the Greens have been willing to do on most issues.


      • spouting anti union retoric, or demanding a stop to corporate and union payouts? not the same thing. Look at vote compass, they put the greens as far more progressive than the NDP. Voters agree, the NDP didnt go far enough. They still are on the fence about site C and LNG. not going to get the environmental vote that way.

        Liked by 1 person

      • At least for now, the Greens are in a very enviable position, being able to work the best deal they can muster. I’m reminded of the alliances commonly used to create Israeli working majorities, often with mixed results.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Well well do you believe Christie won’t sacrifice a couple of points to the equally power hungry Weaver to keep herself on the money train. She will agree to no corporate donations then double cross everyone after delaying the issue until she gets herself more money–cannot make a canary out of a crow


    • Moderates decisively won in Canada in 2015.
      Moderates won in Netherlands in 2017
      Moderates decisively won in France in 2017.
      A Moderate won in Austria in 2016.
      Currently, moderate parties and obliterating AfD in German pre-election polling.
      et cetera.

      Really, besides the clusterfuck that is America, the fringes continue to get beaten back pretty much everywhere else.

      The proclamation that moderates don’t win these days is categorically false.


  4. No, this is a misunderstanding of how BC actually works “Hung parliament” is a British term, and best refers to the UK. Canada has a history of robust minority governments where the party with the most seats governs as though they are a majority until the opposition can muster a vote of no confidence. The monarchy (governors general etc) also tends to stay out of this as much as possible – unlike say Australia. So the CBC is right – it’s a Liberal minority government with 43 seats unless the recounts indicate something else.


    • or unless Christie manipulates the system and gets the speaker to let her go then it would take the greens and NDP together to vote a motion of non confidence and whops Christie is the only one with money to buy another election and getting Weaver and all the NDP on the same page is pure supposition


  5. Respectfully: tomay-to, tomah-to. And you’ve left out the possibility of Clark rounding up a “Tommy Uphill”: a backbencher in opposition who depends on industrial workers’ votes. Happened in 1952 and has happened since. One defection away from a majority government….


    • Likewise, the shaky coalition of old-school SoCreds and Trudeau FedLibs has cracks.

      If the Courtney-Comox recount goes Christy’s way, I would not be surprised to see one or more neo-Liberals who narrowly won end up “jumping ship” in order to keep the NDP from running against them next time. There are at least three ridings where the Liberals won by less than 500 votes. Those reps gotta be shakin’ in their shoes!

      We can all agree that a strong third-party is what keeps this whole thing refreshingly more fascinating than what happens south of the 49th.


  6. It’s a liberal minority because the liberals won the largest plurality of seats. It’s not that complicated and has nothing to do with the media shilling for one party. A liberal minority doesn’t mean that Clark will run the minority government as you claim. It simply means that the liberal party won the largest number of seats.

    This article is beyond ridiculous, complaining about nothing.


    • Hi Albert, thanks for reading. The issue is with the claim that Clark won a minority *government* on election night, as the CBC headline posted at the top of the article does. It would be accurate to say that the Liberals won a plurality of seats.

      Also, to be clear, I’m not suggesting that the media are secretly in the tank for one party, only that they are misreporting the facts in a way that gives a special advantage to one party.

      Liked by 1 person

      • That’s really just playing semantics and/or moaning about technicalities. Reality she is now in position to govern as a minority in the Legislature. The NDP and Greens will have to demonstrate in the house she doesn’t have their confidence to change this unless she chooses to resign.


      • Hi, Wayne. The point is that the right to govern as a minority is won or lost in the legislature. That is the meaning of responsible government. This “technicality” is a defining principle of the constitution, so it’s important to get it right.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Gary Mason (The Globe and Mail) on why the Liberals lost: “No matter how you frame this outcome, it represents a devastating blow to the Liberals, which had assumed a ‘natural-governing party’ aura, so lengthy was their reign, so formidable the political machine they had built. In recent years, however, their success had begun to give off a scent of arrogance and smugness.”

    Liked by 1 person

  8. No, it isn’t wrong to report a minority. Clark, as the incumbent, has the opportunity to attempt to govern with a minority. This is the situation we are currently in, and the ball is in her court.


    • Actually no, the ball is in Andrew Weaver’s court, because him and his party gets to decide whether the NDP or the Liberals get to govern.


      • I think you will find that the Greens won’t align themselves with either party. Instead they may vote for or against separate issues as they are raised in parliament.


      • ops still asleep there Dominique?? Weaver already screwed up Liz so it won’t be a stretch to go where the money is— worked for Christie didn’t it


  9. What I’m hoping for is a “Horver” alliance on a first move: legislation to get big $$ out of BC politics. It’s a far simpler step than nailing down proportional representation — but it would be a key to watering down the corruption that thrives when there’s no cap on union or corporate (including foreign or out of province) donations.

    The BC Liberals would never agree to it, as the free enterprise party doesn’t have the mobilized army of volunteers that the NDP and Greens have. If a snap election is going to happen, the Orange and Green have a BIG advantage if the Lib$’ money train has been derailed first.

    If they get more time before a snap election, there’s always Site C and the grizzly bear hunt to come together on.

    (It will be fun to see Ms. Clark HAVE to attend class, to make sure her votes count!)

    Liked by 3 people

      • Although Weaver has been critical of it, Kinder Morgan is now a Federal affair, and Trudeau has already signed the permit.

        I’m afraid it’s gonna be bodies in front of bulldozers now. But a Christy majority would just say, “They’re illegally trespassing! Let the dozers roll!” whereas they’re going to have to be more respectful with Weaver/Horgan breathing down their back.

        Keep in mind that some urban Liberals won by less that 500 votes. Their constituents don’t want pipelines. They are much more likely to “jump ship” in the present situation than they were with a strong Liberal majority government. With the possibility of a close election, they’ve gotta be thinking about how nice it would be to not be running against the NDP.

        Interesting times, indeed””


    • Christie money would allow a vote of non confidence and go to another election before she would lose het cash train.


  10. minority government
    noun: minority government; plural noun: minority governments
    a government in which the governing party has most seats but still less than half the total.

    There are a number of options, trying to form a coalition with other parties, 1st and 3rd or 2nd and 3rd (combinations depend on the number of parties, their number of seats and relations between the parties and their members), or try and form a minority government.


  11. It says right there “although it’s possible the final result could change in the weeks to come.”


    • Hi STEPHENTWEEDALE CHILL YOUR SHIT, thanks for reading. However, I think you’ve missed the point. If “the final result could change” refers to the number of seats, I agree that it could change; in fact my post explicitly acknowledges this. But if “the final result could change” refers to the Liberals winning a minority government, this only compounds the error. A Liberal minority government is not even the provisional outcome of the election, because there is no electoral mechanism for determining the composition of government. The election gives Clark the opportunity to attempt minority government, but it does not give us a minority government.


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  13. Pingback: A B.C. Liberal Minority Government? Not So Fast – Enjeux énergies et environnement

  14. Stephen has it right in saying that media reports are false. Nor is it “Reality” being reflected, as Tim states. Nor is it even CBC alone in making this false assertion – Global, Globe and Mail, they all state the same.
    Likewise “hung Parliament” doesn’t “best refer” to the UK as Mark states, it applies here also :
    (This story finds a unique fallacy to pivot upon: “The apparent minority situation… robs everybody of the certainty that B.C. elections usually deliver”. Certainty… the same weasel word used in attempting to deprive First Nations of their title rights as a pre-condition to Treaty Negotiations. But I digress…)

    The error here is in assuming that media are being less than intentional. It’s quite intentional – always is when you see all mainstream media stating the same something as fact when it’s not. They’re building a narrative.

    Because they too are subject to their corporate sponsors, who in turn deeply dislike a non-Liberal govt in BC. Remember that key mainstream media outright endorsed BC Liberals (and what is up with that? Media have no business doing so…).

    So “pundits” keep repeating the false assertion that Clark will continue as Premier. Repeat a lie often enough…



    Liked by 1 person

  16. “In that case, the lieutenant governor, Judith Guichon, would invite John Horgan to form a government.”


    “In that case, the lieutenant governor, Judith Guichon, COULD CHOOSE TO invite John Horgan to form a government.”

    Or, (and this is the far superior choice) the Lt. Gov could choose to dissolve the Legislature and call a new election, which the Liberals win and save BC from the whackjob Green party ever sniffing power.

    Of course all sane people are hoping the 9 vote riding goes Liberal after the absentee ballots are counted and the Liberals get to 44.


    • Hi hishighness, thanks for reading. By well-established convention, the lieutenant governor may not dissolve the legislature except on the advice of her first minister. By another well-established convention, the lieutenant governor must ensure that there is always a government in place. So if Clark resigned, Guichon would have to appoint someone else to form government immediately — dissolution would not be an option. If the reason for Clark’s resignation was that Clark didn’t think a Liberal government could win the confidence of the legislature, it would be illogical for Guichon to appoint another Liberal as premier. The logical choice would be Horgan, as he would be the only other party leader who could feasibly command majority support. If Horgan too failed to win the support of the legislature, he would have to advise Guichon to call a new election. Only then could she dissolve the legislature.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Who cares about minority or majority in the long run it’s who would be the best for BC, and in my opinion it surely isnt CHRISTY CLARK and her party.


  18. I’m a bit surprised by the know it all tone of many of the comments on this feed. Yes, yes, yes….no, no, no…..all the suppositions registered may be possible, but they also carry our ‘know it all’ punditry with them……and so generally miss the author’s point.

    He isn’t telling us what is going to happen. That would be crystal ball journalism, and one would think we’d had enough of that in the last year or two. He’s correcting the record about how our parliamentary system works. And forgive me if B.C. is a different ‘kettle of fish’ and I’m ignorant of that fact.

    Because if it follows the rules of the Canadian parliamentary system….Clark can only govern in her minority situation, if she can garner votes from one of the other two parties. And yes….if the Greens go Liberal, she has that ability.

    But if the Greens go Liberal, they reveal themselves as one more neoliberal bunch, with ‘green aspirations’. To do that, in a province facing the environmental devastation neoliberal dreams of economic wealth have created, will tell us a lot more about them, than that they hate unions. And seriously, I don’t see how any Green who has done the climate analysis could hate unions….poverty is a climate change issue…..poverty in the States is fueling the Trump phenomena, which is anything but Green.

    So if we stay with the article……..its’ argument holds.

    MSM is simplifying a complex situation, AND IN DOING SO, IS MAKING CLARK’S CONTINUED GOVERNANCE SEEM INEVITABLE. MSM isn’t owned by people who put environment above corporate profits.



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