Daniel Francis

Reading the National Narrative

In the Minority

May 6, 2017

With next week's provincial election looming, and the Green Party looking to play a bit of the spoiler, I've been asked several times in the last few days whether BC has ever had a minority government. (Perhaps it is because I edited a giant encyclopedia about the province that people think I know stuff like that.)

To my shame, I didn't actually know, but I hazarded a guess. Yes, once in 1952, when the Social Credit Party was just getting started. In that year's vote, the Social Credit League, not yet even an official party, came out of nowhere to take a plurality of the seats. Once in power the elected Socreds chose a disaffected Conservative named W.A.C. Bennett to lead the new party. Within a year voters returned to the polls and gave Bennett a solid majority, which he did not relinquish for the next 20 years.

But it turns out I was wrong. A little research in my own encyclopedia reveals that BC has had a minority government on two other occasions as well. Once in 1924 when "Honest" John Oliver's Liberal government was reduced to a minority, clinging to power with less than a third of the popular vote. And again in 1941 when the Liberals again, led by dapper Duff Pattullo, lost their majority. In that instance, Pattullo resigned the premiership and his party joined the Conservatives in a coalition government aimed at keeping the socialist CCF out of power.

So minority government in BC is rare, but not unheard of. It hasn't happened for more than a half century but Tuesday's vote will reveal whether this is one of those years.

And no matter what your preference, vote early and vote often.

UPDATE: The unexpected happened last night and it looks like BC has got itself a minority government, though it is too soon to say for certain. For an analysis of the results, see here.

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