Social justice groups call for Green-NDP cooperation

No change yet in seat distribution, after absentee ballots counted in 72 ridings
Green Party's Susan Furstenau joined NDP's Carole James at news conference where petition calling for NDP-Green cooperation was presented.

The second day of absentee ballot counting ended Tuesday May 23 with no changes to the makeup of seats that resulted from the initial vote count on election night.

The tally still stands at 43 seats for the BC Liberals, 41 for the NDP and three for the Greens.

There are close to 180,000 absentee ballots to be counted before a final vote is concluded. Elections BC began counting them on May 22, and is due to compete the count tomorrow, May 24.

But even then, it is entirely possible that British Columbians will still have to wait several days before knowing if the BC Liberals will have a minority of majority government.

The vote was so close in Courtenay-Comox that, even after a final tally of absentee ballots, it could still be close enough that a judicial recount will be required.

The NDP won Courtenay-Comox by just nine votes in the initial tally on election night. By 5 p.m. May 23, an ongoing absentee ballot count had flipped it to the Liberals by just three votes, but at 5:44 Elections BC reported the vote flipping back to the NDP by 101 votes. The count is ongoing.

Meanwhile, a coalition of social justice organizations stepped up pressure on Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver Tuesday to side with the NDP with a petition signed by 25,000 people, who are calling for cooperation between the NDP and Greens.

NDP MLA Carole James (Victoria-Beacon Hill) and Sonia Furstenau – the new Green MLA for Cowichan Valley – appeared together Tuesday at a news conference, in which Leadnow delivered a petition on behalf of several organizations, including Stand.earth, the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs and BC Health Coalition.

The petition calls on the Greens to cooperate with the NDP on environmental and social issues, but stops short of calling for a formal coalition between the two parties.

The Green Party platform aligns more with the NDP platform than it does with the Liberal Party platform on certain key issues, such as universal child care, pipelines and electoral reform.

“We haven’t been prescriptive about what kind of form that cooperation should take,” said Sven Biggs, a campaigner with Stand.earth. “But there’s clearly a bunch of areas where their policies are very close or in line, and on those issues in particular we’re asking them to put aside partisanship, for instance on issue like protecting our coast.”

A Mainstreet-Postmedia poll last week showed 57% of British Columbians polled would approve of a coalition between the Greens and NDP. That figure – 57% – reflects the popular vote (40% for NDP; 17% for the Greens).

But coalitions can do more harm than good for the smaller members who form them.

“The third party always faces risks and are almost always sort of screwed in these kind of situations, no matter which way they go,” said Ian Bushfield, co-host of the B.C.-based political affairs podcast PolitiCoast.

“If they go with the Liberals, they’ll be accused by a significant chunk of their base of selling out the progressive causes they fought for, and the NDP partisans will accuse them of the same thing. If they go with the NDP, anything people don’t like that that government does, they’ll just pin it on the Greens.”

As of 5 p.m. May 23, Elections BC had finished counting all absentee ballots in 72 ridings, with no changes to the distribution of seats. There are still 15 ridings where the absentee ballot counting is still in progress, including Courtenay-Comox.

nbennett@biv.com

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