British Columbians will be heading to the polls Oct. 24 for an early provincial election. Premier John Horgan made the announcement Monday morning at a press conference and acknowledged the difficulty of holding a vote during a pandemic.
“We are not at the end of COVID-19 — we are at the beginning. This pandemic will be with us for a year or more. That’s why I believe we need to have an election now,” he said.
Horgan said Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, and Elections BC have made preparations so the vote can be done safely, both in person and remotely.
“There will be ample new opportunities through advanced voting, as well as mail-in ballots to be sure that people can participate in the democratic process from the comfort of their own home,” he said.
Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson criticized the decision to call the election 13 months earlier than necessary.
“The case count per capita in British Columbia is the highest in the country and rising fast, why do we need the upset and turmoil of a general election?” he said, adding the premier was motivated by recent favourable polling for the NDP and not the wellbeing of people in the province.
“The goal for the NDP is to secure their own employment. The picture here is we have got a government that is cynical enough to put us through a general election in the middle of a pandemic.”
Horgan said the decision was made to improve political stability and give whichever party wins a strong mandate to govern during a turbulent time.
“I cannot imagine 12 more months of bickering, 12 more months of not knowing whether a bill would pass the legislature because of uncertainty in numbers. I think the best way forward is to resolve that now,” he said.
The election announcement effectively brings an end to the Confidence and Supply Agreement (CASA) between the minority NDP government and the Green Party, which saw the Greens voting with the NDP on confidence motions such as budgets and throne speeches.
“He basically ripped up their agreement in front of her eyes and said ‘Get out of my office, it’s time for a general election.’ What kind of a person does that in the middle of a pandemic? Rip up a deal that would have led to stable government for the next year,” said Wilkinson.
Recently elected Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau said she is disappointed with the decision by Horgan. She cited the resulting end of some committee work as one consequence of the snap election.
“The police committee was brought together to address issues around systemic racism in our province and they were underway in a non partisan way to bring forward solutions to that and that work has been stopped. This is an example of what an unnecessary election is doing,” said Furstenau.
She also said the early election would hamper efforts in all parties to improve equity in the candidates fielded.
“[Snap elections] favour people that have security, they favour people that have financial stability and they do not favour having more diversity and equity in elections,” said Furstenau.
Heading into the election, the NDP and Liberals both hold 41 seats, the Green Party holds two, along with two independent seats and one vacant.