British Columbia·Analysis

B.C. wasn't a focus on election night — but will be for as long as next Parliament lasts

About two minutes before the first polling stations provided votes from Canada's westernmost province, a Liberal government was declared. It means that Justin Trudeau was assured of re-election without any real assistance west of the Rocky Mountains.

West Coast is home to 2 federal leaders, and future of Trans Mountain pipeline still up in the air

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau celebrates with his wife, Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, after winning a minority government. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

Well, so much for B.C. mattering on election night.

About two minutes before the first polling stations provided votes from Canada's westernmost province, a Liberal government was declared — meaning Justin Trudeau was assured of re-election without any real assistance west of the Rocky Mountains.

With few seats in B.C. switching sides, that meant several hours where the greatest suspense came from waiting to see if Vancouver Granville's Jody Wilson-Raybould would become the first independent candidate from B.C. to win since 2004 (she did).

Despite the relative lack of drama on election night, the results ensured B.C. politicians and issues will play a large role on the national stage — for however long this next parliament lasts.

Pipeline politics

On issues like pharmacare and student loan reform, there are easy ways for the Liberals to gain the support of other progressive parties to pass an agenda.

On others, Trudeau may have more tense negotiations with Jagmeet Singh, the NDP leader and MP for Burnaby South.

Like that pipeline the government bought.

The Liberals were able to hold onto power and the symbolic seat of Burnaby-North Seymour, where the Trans Mountain reaches its terminus.

But will Singh make scrapping the pipeline a condition of his support for the Liberals? If he doesn't, will some members of his caucus — many of whom were elected in B.C. — rebel?

Trudeau doesn't have an easier path on the pipeline issue with either the Greens or the Bloc, as both parties have made it clear they are against its construction.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh celebrates after his election victory in Burnaby South. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Whither the Greens?

And what's next for the other federal leader from British Columbia, the Green Party's Elizabeth May?

In her election speech, she celebrated the fact that her party had the best-ever result for the Greens in a first-past-the-post national election.

That's a generous assessment for a party that received more attention than ever, but only added a single seat across the country and was unable to eclipse the popular vote total May got in her first election as leader in 2008.

That doesn't mean the party lacks relevance, though. In a minority parliament, the Greens' three seats could be critical. 

Even one vote can be critical. Independent MP Jody Wilson-Raybould will likely have an amplified voice in the House of Commons, and allied herself with May during the campaign.

"We're going to make [a minority government] work by dint of hard work, moral persuasion ... and holding their feet to the fire," she said. 

Green Party leader Elizabeth May speaks to supporters after her victory in Saanich—Gulf Islands. (Chris Corday/CBC)

Urban-rural split

The minority Parliament — and the role the fourth- and fifth-place parties will play — means B.C. politicians and B.C. issues will stay in the forefront.

On a riding-by-riding level, very little changed from four years ago: the Greens and NDP held Vancouver Island, the NDP and Conservatives kept the Interior and the Liberals won the most seats in Vancouver, despite gains by the Conservatives in the suburbs. 

It's that final point that bears underlining: Even though Justin Trudeau didn't need 11 MPs in Metro Vancouver to form government, he got them. It's the Liberal Party's second-best result in B.C. in the last 50 years, with their best coming four years ago.

It's a reminder that there's strong support in Western Canada's largest metropolis for progressive politics, and that the political culture on the West Coast continues to evolve.

Even if, on this election night, it felt like the same old story.


Justin McElroy


Justin is the Municipal Affairs Reporter for CBC Vancouver, covering local political stories throughout British Columbia.

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