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B.C. is likely to end up with a minority government: economist

British Columbia Premier Christy Clark did all but announce her victory in the provincial election Wednesday, saying she had won the popular vote and intended "to lead British Columbia's government."

The final count for B.C.’s provincial election is most likely to preserve a minority government in which the Liberals hold the most seats, a UBC economist said Thursday.

UBC Prof. Kevin Milligan found that the BC NDP enjoy an absentee ballot advantage in provincial elections — and this time, that advantage could see them gaining some seats, losing others, but still maintaining the same count they had on election night.

Milligan conducted his research by looking at the initial and final results of the 2013 B.C. election.

He found that it wasn’t rare for the NDP to win ridings they initially lost by 170 votes when absentee ballots were counted.

The party initially lost Coquitlam-Maillardville by 111 votes in that election; it later won the riding by 41 votes when absentee ballots were accounted for.

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READ MORE: B.C. election 2017: over 176,000 absentee ballots to be counted by May 24

For this election, Milligan conducted 1 million simulation of voting results with absentee ballot counted.

They resulted in a status quo result 62.5 per cent of the time, according to one model; the status quo resulted 61.5 per cent of the time under another one.

Milligan shared his research in a series of tweets on Thursday night.

But those weren’t the only possibilities that Milligan found in his modelling.

The BC Liberals had about a one-in-10 chance of taking a majority government in his simulations; the NDP, only a 1.4-to-six-per-cent chance of taking more seats than the Liberals.

Milligan sees the NDP holding on to a number of ridings with close results — including Courtenay-Comox, which Ronna-Rae Leonard won by nine votes on Tuesday.

Some expect it to go Liberal once absentee ballots are counted — Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Comox is located there, and former base commander Jim Benninger ran in the riding as a Liberal.

Milligan isn’t so sure.

“It’s actually kind of rare for the Liberals to overcome a nine-point spread,” he said.

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But even if the Liberals take Courtenay-Comox, it’s still possible for them to lose Richmond-Queensborough and Coquitlam-Burke Mountain, he added.

READ MORE: B.C. election 2017: recount requested in Courtenay-Comox and Maple Ridge-Mission

Those were three of the four ridings that could realistically flip when over 176,000 absentee ballots are counted by May 24, according to Milligan’s modelling.

Here are the riding that could change hands, and their chances of doing so:

  • Coquitlam-Burke Mountain, which has a 28.2-per-cent chance of flipping from Liberal to NDP;
  • Courtenay-Comox, which has an 11.7-per-cent chance of switching to the Liberals;
  • Richmond-Queensborough, which has a 5.9-per-cent chance of ending up in the NDP’s hands;
  • Maple Ridge-Mission, which has a 2.4-per-cent chance of going Liberal.

Milligan noted, however, that his models don’t account for specific factors in ridings, such as the Comox military base, or that there might be more union members in one district than others.

He simply didn’t have the data to account for that.

“Some of those things can really matter for these absentee ballots,” he said.

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