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Vote-counting wait leaves restless MLAs in limbo

Carole James spent time with her grandchildren before diving back into work. B.C. Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver embarked on a hiring spree for his new three-member caucus.
Photo - B.C. legislature buildings generic
The B.C. legislature buildings in downtown Victoria.

Carole James spent time with her grandchildren before diving back into work.

B.C. Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver embarked on a hiring spree for his new three-member caucus.

And Mitzi Dean performed one of her first official tasks as a new MLA by marching in the Esquimalt Buccaneer Days parade.

With the B.C. election results still in doubt and likely to remain so for days or weeks to come, Greater Victoria MLAs are finding ways of coping with the waiting and uncertainty.

“You feel restless,” said James, who won a fourth straight election for the NDP in Victoria-Beacon Hill.

“I’m going on lots and lots of walks, just trying to keep my fitness level up after the campaign.”

James said she took a few days after the election to thank volunteers, tidy up her campaign office and invite the grandkids over for a visit.

Then she got back to work lining up constituency meetings, bringing greetings to a post-secondary educators conference and attending graduation ceremonies.

She admits, however, that this transition period has been different from previous ones.

“It’s not like any other election,” she said. “You get closure on election night. Election night brings you a win or a loss of your own seat and then a win or a loss for your party. But to be in this in-between place is a very strange feeling.”

She said it’s a bit easier for incumbent MLAs, because they already have offices. It’s tougher for new MLAs such as the NDP’s Dean in Esquimalt-Metchosin who are in limbo, James said. She met with her new colleague last week to offer support and advice.

“[Dean] had Buccaneer Days this week in Esquimalt and that was a great thing to do as a new MLA,” James said. “It was a great way to say thank you to the people of Esquimalt, but also to be there as the MLA. So I think that really helped her.”

Weaver, meanwhile, moved quickly to appoint Liz Lilly as chief of staff for the Green caucus and Taylor Hartrick as her deputy. Lilly spent 25 years in the B.C. government and served as the Greens’ platform director.

Weaver, who was re-elected in Oak Bay-Gordon Head, is hoping the Greens will play a significant role in whichever government takes shape in the days ahead.

Liberal Leader Christy Clark remains the premier pending the final vote count that concludes May 24. The B.C. Liberals currently hold 43 seats to 41 for the NDP and three for the Greens. That could change, depending on what happens in the final counts.

Clark’s cabinet remains in place — including retiring and defeated ministers — until a new one takes over.

She watched four cabinet ministers go down to defeat on election night — Community, Sport and Cultural Development Minister Peter Fassbender; Attorney General Suzanne Anton; Technology, Innovation and Citizens’ Services Minister Amrik Virk; and Minister of State for Emergency Preparedness Naomi Yamamoto.

Health Minister Terry Lake and Energy Minister Bill Bennett both decided against seeking re-election.

Matt Gordon, assistant deputy minister of corporate priorities and communications operations, said in a statement that the ministers remain in their positions as “caretakers” until a new cabinet is sworn in.

“Government activity is typically very limited during this time, as new policy and legislative work awaits the new executive council,” he said. “However, on issues such as public and environmental health and emergency management, the public can expect the government’s full attention to such matters.”

Michael Prince, a professor of social policy at the University of Victoria, said the public service continues to operate government, but it’s unlikely any major decisions will be made until after the final vote count.

“Until we know whether we’ve got a majority or minority, it’s not going to be business as usual,” he said. “I would think major decisions are on hold.”

He said that could mean that businesses or non-profits that have been waiting weeks for a decision on a project or contract will have to wait a while longer.

“We’re kind of in an awkward hiatus right now.”

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