Loading articles...

Key player in setting up B.C. minority gov't urges lieutenant governor to nix idea of snap election

Last Updated Sep 16, 2020 at 7:05 am PST

(iStock Photo)
Summary

Key figure in negotiating working agreement between B.C. NDP, Greens weighing in on talks of a snap election

Norman Spector has penned an open letter to Lieutenant Governor Janet Austen outlining reasons against a 2020 election

Spector raises concerns about possible impact election could have on efforts to fight COVID-19

VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) – The train that could be bringing a fall election to B.C. seems to be picking up speed, but not everyone is on board.

A key figure in negotiating the Green-NDP working agreement is not happy and taking his two cents to the province’s lieutenant governor.

Former political advisor and consultant Norman Spector’s open letter to Lieutenant Governor Janet Austen outlines three key reasons he says she should give advice to not immediately dissolve government if requested by Premier John Horgan.

One is that there is a fixed election date for next fall, set by Horgan’s government. The second reason is that the NDP has committed to a Confidence and Supply Agreement with the B.C. Greens to last until after losing a confidence vote, and that hasn’t happened.

Finally, Spector writes in his letter to that non-partisan cooperation between all parties has been integral the success of battling the COVID-19 pandemic — a goodwill he argues would be compromised by an election.

“As Her Majesty’s Representative in British Columbia, it is generally agreed that you are constitutionally required to accept and act on the advice of the Head of Government. However, as Lieutenant Governor, you also have the right to advise, encourage and warn her or him, as well as to offer valued counsel,” Spector writes.

Horgan’s popularity is very high right now as the B.C. Liberals work to rebuild and the B.C. Green Party is down to two MLAs. The latter has also just elected a new leader.

When asked, Horgan said there wasn’t an ongoing pandemic when the Confidence and Supply Agreement was written, and that the world has changed.

“With cases rising, both Dr. Henry and Minister Dix have been stressing the need for each of us to reduce our social contacts — surely not the optimum environment for an election unless one is absolutely necessary, which is not the case in B.C. with the Government still enjoying the confidence of the Legislature,” Spector’s open letter adds.

Read Spector’s full letter to the lieutenant governor:

Her Honour

The Honourable Janet Austin, OBC Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia Government House

1401 Rockland Avenue

Victoria, B.C. V8S IV9

Your honour:

I am writing to you as a former Constitutional adviser to the Premier of B.C. and to the Prime Minister of Canada. More recently, I advised Andrew Weaver and the B.C. Green Party, and was present at the table, in negotiations with the B.C. Liberals and B.C. NDP that produced the Confidence and Supply Agreement of 2017, delivered to Government House by Mr. Weaver and John Horgan after it was formally signed by their MLAs.

As Her Majesty’s Representative in British Columbia, it is generally agreed that you are constitutionally required to accept and act on the advice of the Head of Government. However, as Lieutenant-Governor, you also have the the right to advise, encourage and warn her or him, as well as to offer valued counsel.

As you are no doubt aware, there are rumours in the air propelled by much press speculation about the prospect of a snap provincial election. Should Premier Horgan insist on a dissolution of the Legislature at this stage of the mandate, you would have no alternative but to accede to the request. In light of the current situation in the province, however, you would be fully entitled not to agree to such a request on the spot.

First, you may want to advise Mr. Horgan of the fixed election date that he and his Government and the Legislature have set by law to take place “on the third Saturday in October in the fourth calendar year following the general voting day for the most recently held general election.” While your office is not constitutionally bound by s. 23 of the Constitution Act, respect for the rule of law is a cardinal principle of our democracy, of which you are one of the most important safeguards.

Second, you may want to remind the Premier of the signed personal commitment he made in the CASA: “The Leader of the New Democrats will not request a dissolution of the Legislature during the term of this agreement, except following the defeat of a motion of confidence.” Reneging on that signature would be inconsistent with the norm of good faith that underlies our democracy.

Third, you may want to encourage Mr. Horgan to maintain the remarkable degree of non- partisanship that Health Minister Adrian Dix and Dr. Bonnie Henry have fostered in managing the COVID-19 pandemic. The outstanding results the Government has achieved is in large measure due to the cooperation elicited with the Official Opposition as well as with their Green partners in CASA. That non-partisanship would be squandered — and the effectiveness ofpandemic management compromised — should the Premier opt for an election for one reason and for one reason alone; viz., his Party’s advantage in public opinion polls.

Which brings us to the pandemic itself. With cases rising, both Dr. Henry and Minister Dix have been stressing the need for each of us to reduce our social contacts — surely not the optimum environment for an election unless one is absolutely necessary, which is not the case in B.C. with the Government still enjoying the confidence of the Legislature.

Fundamentally, the CASA has brought about a remarkable change in political culture in B.C. — spawning as you have observed “cross-partisan teamwork” that has rarely been seen in this famously polarized province. For this and the other reasons set out above, I respectfully recommend that should Premier Horgan now request that the Legislature be dissolved, you should send him away to think about it.

Furthermore, I would urge you to make this public, in order to further enhance the role of the Lieutenant-Governor that was so remarkably exhibited by the decision of your predecessor in 2017 to call on Mr. Horgan rather than on Ms Clark to form Government.

Yours faithfully, Norman Spector, Victoria, B.C.