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B.C. set for an election sooner rather than later: UFV professor

Last Updated Sep 21, 2020 at 6:38 am PST

B.C. Premier John Horgan. (Courtesy B.C. Government, Flickr)
Summary

A political observer is suggesting British Columbians could soon be heading to the polls

Despite the NDP losing a seventh cabinet minister, a political scientist says B.C. is set for a vote soon

But the decision ultimately rests on what's in the federal throne speech Wednesday in Ottawa

ABBOTSFORD (NEWS 1130) — With another cabinet minister announcing they won’t be seeking re-election, a political observer says he believes British Columbians could soon be heading to the polls.

Transportation Minister Claire Trevena is the latest to say she won’t been fighting to keep her seat in the next election — whenever that may be.

Her and others’ decisions leaves room for the possibility of a snap election sooner, rather than later.

“I think John Horgan his mind is pretty much made up,” Hamish Telford, associate professor of political science at the University of the Fraser Valley, said. “And clearing the decks is a common operating procedure for political parties. The leader, or in this case the premier, will ask his team who intends to run and not run. Some will say that they are done and they step aside.”

He says what happens in Ottawa next week will be a factor, saying he doubts Horgan will call an election until he’s certain there won’t be a federal election called at the same time.

“We’ve got a throne speech in Ottawa on Wednesday, with a confidence vote to follow,” Telford said.

“He needs to know for sure that the Trudeau government is not going to fall. I think he has to be absolutely certain that we’re not having a fall election before he can pull the trigger on a provincial election.”

Ministers stepping down

Trevena announced on Sunday that she won’t be seeking re-election.

The North Island MLA is the seventh minister to do so, following Judy Darcy, the minister for Mental Health and Addictions who announced Thursday she won’t be running again.

The other six ministers: Carole James, finance minister; Shane Simpson, minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction; Judy Darcy, minister for Mental Health and Addictions; Michelle Mungall, minister of Jobs and Economic Development; Doug Donaldson, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development; and Scott Fraser, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation.

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Telford said having so many ministers step down creates challenges for the NDP, but also opportunities.

“But it also allows you to bring in some new faces and rejuvenate because one of the difficult things for the incumbent government is to present themselves as agents of change, and that’s always why the opposition parties will say it’s time for change,” he added.

‘Every seat counts’

Telford also said that every seat counts, especially to a minority government like the NDP.

“But we’ve also seen a recent trend over the decades that campaigns are ever more centralized under the auspices of the leader. If the leader runs a good campaign, he can bring a lot of people along on his coattails.”

Horgan is the most popular provincial leader in Canada, according to a recent poll.

“And I think that that’s what the NDP is going to be counting on,” Telford said.

However, calling an election during the COVID-19 pandemic could backfire if the electorate isn’t onside, he added.

“When premiers have called snap elections that have looked opportunistic, there have been cases in the past where premiers have been punished for that,” Telford said.

“But there are other cases where the upset wears off fairly quickly and they get rewarded with what they were seeking in the first place.”

‘Look at the map’

Telford said British Columbians need to look beyond polls and at the electoral map.

“The NDP, at a minimum, needs to pick up four seats to eke out a bare majority government. That’s assuming they hold everything that they’ve got, and I’ve never seen a party hold everything, and then gain more.”

Telford said it’s difficult to find ridings where the NDP can pick up four or more seats and form a majority government.

“I think this is John Horgan betting on a big gamble here.”