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Leaders press for votes on last day before British Columbia election

B.C. leaders push for votes on the last day

VANCOUVER — In the final days of British Columbia’s election campaign, Green Leader Andrew Weaver’s supporters have become a hot commodity as the New Democrats try to persuade voters they are the only real alternative to the Liberals.

On the eve of the election, NDP Leader John Horgan appealed to anyone who is sitting on the fence to vote for him.

“To those voters not yet decided, join with us, come together and let’s create a better B.C.,” he said Monday at a campaign stop in Surrey.

Horgan made a direct appeal last week for Green supporters to back the NDP, telling them they occupy common ground in their support for electoral reform, measures to fight climate change and opposition to the expansion of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline. 

On Monday, he said he’d spend the last day of the campaign trying to make sure that as many people as possible cast ballots for the NDP.

“I’m appealing to those who are uncomfortable with the direction of the leadership of the B.C. Liberal party and the B.C. Green party and disaffected conservatives and others in the community,” he said. “If they want a government that works for them, I’m encouraging them to vote for us.”

Weaver diverted his campaign on Friday to an event where Horgan was speaking in Nanaimo, telling reporters he is trying to inspire voters in the face of negative messaging by his opponents.

On Monday, Weaver said “hatred and abuse” from the other parties’ “mud slinging” and conspiracy theories has brought millennial volunteers on his team “to tears.”

“I’ve had to pull them off the floor,” he told a news conference in Vancouver.

Minority government are rare in British Columbia. There have only been three in the province’s history, with the last in 1952.

If no party wins a majority of seats on Tuesday, Weaver wasn’t ready to discuss where he would throw his support.

“It would be irresponsible for me to undermine any negotiating potential I would have prior to people going to vote, to actually say what we would do,” he said.

“We have a platform with very clear views and ideas that we would like to get forward in a negotiation. We would try to ensure that many of the ideas are there.”

Getting “big money out of politics,” proportional representation and climate change are among the Greens’ top priorities, said Weaver, whose party has banned corporate and union donations.

Politically fundraising laws, the cost of housing and a trade spat with the United States over softwood lumber have been central themes of the 28-day campaign.

The Liberals have won four successive majority governments dating back to 2001.

The other leaders stuck to familiar scripts on the campaign trail, with Liberal Leader Christy Clark telling voters they have a clear choice between more jobs and financial stability offered by her party or larger debt that she argues will be the result if the other parties control the purse strings.

“None of the other two parties share anything in common with us,” she said. “I’m just working hard to make sure British Columbian’s know what I stand for, what I believe in and the choice, the really, really stark choice in this election.”

Clark received an angry reception from some people as she toured the streets of Sidney.

Doc Currie held a homemade protest sign as he followed Clark, yelling that she was the worst premier the province has ever had.

A group of school teachers on a lunch break from a professional development course were also attracted by the commotion.

Aaron Mueller, a teacher-librarian at Parkland Secondary School in North Saanich, accused Clark of refusing to engage with anyone but party supporters and donors.

“We wanted to come down and let her know that the teachers of B.C. are not happy with the way the Liberals have treated kids and teachers and parents,” Mueller said.

Horgan, who campaigned in Surrey, said everywhere he’s been over the past month people have told him they want a change in government.

“After 16 years of people at the top getting their way, it’s time the people in this room, the people in this community and the people in this province had a government that’s working for them,” he said at a stop in Surrey.

In an unscripted moment, the NDP campaign bus hit a bump and got stuck leaving its back wheels spinning until a tow truck could pull it free.

Horgan quipped on Twitter that he was “less worried about my bus and more concerned about British Columbians getting stuck with four more years of Christy Clark.”

— With files from Gemma Karstens-Smith in Surrey and Geordon Omand in Richmond.

Camille Bains, The Canadian Press