Updated: Oct 1, 2020
In his riding of Langford-Juan de Fuca, Premier John Horgan called a snap election this Monday. Horgan was immediately met with criticism from his opponents in the BC Liberals and from his former allies, particularly for violating the fixed-date election law that had been agreed upon by the NDP-Green coalition in 2017, which had set the next provincial election for 2021. However, the tempting opportunity of achieving a majority government for the NDP, which the party has not achieved since 1996 under Glen Clark (notorious for his political scandals, causing NDP support to collapse in 2001, only returning to prominence sixteen years later) proved, per Macleans, “too tempting to resist.”
“This pandemic will be with us for a year or more and that’s why I believe we need to have an election now,” stated the Premier. Horgan’s popularity has overall been high due to his “yield[ing] the spotlight to the Provincial Health Officer and his Health Minister,” allowing public health officials to take the reins and respond effectively to the pandemic.
B.C. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson described Horgan’s decision as a “cynical, self-serving, selfish move.”
“What kind of person does that, in the middle of a pandemic rip up a deal that would have led to stable government for the next year?” Wilkinson said to reporters. “Who would do that? And the answer is John Horgan and the NDP.”
Horgan justified his move out of frustration with the Green Party’s attempt to block bills passed by his minority government this spring.
Sonia Furstenau, head of the Greens, evidently disagreed: “There is nothing in the confidence and supply agreement that says that we have to obey, or that we have to agree with absolutely everything that the NDP put forward. This has been a time of unbelievable co-operation and collaboration for the people of British Columbia. This is an irresponsible and unnecessary election that he’s imposing and whatever excuses he’s making up for it, let’s be clear, this is about him and his party putting their fortunes ahead of British Columbians at a time when people are worried about their jobs, their financial security, their children and their health.”
Currently maintaining 41 seats out of 87, the NDP requires just 3 more seats to achieve a majority. This election, the NDP will strategically target the Vancouver Island seats held by their former Green allies, having the potential to throw the party out of legislature entirely. With recent polls predicting support around 44.6%, the party is expected to achieve a majority of around 55 seats.
This dramatic swing brings change to the usual trend of BC politics. Most elections have been highly competitive over the last 15 years, with the BC Liberals never winning the popular vote by a “margin greater than five points,” with +4.3 points in 2005, +3.6 points in 2009, +4.4 points in 2013 and +0.08 points in 2017.
If Horgan should pull off his gamble, a strong majority awaits him, with the ability to call a crucial budget vote next spring he may otherwise have been unable to do.