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Provincial election in B.C. called for Oct. 24

Citynews 1130 Vancouver

Last Updated Sep 21, 2020 at 7:04 pm PDT

Summary

NDP leader John Horgan announces fall election for Oct. 24, amid the COVID-19 pandemic

Horgan met with Lieutenant Governor Janet Austin to request an election be called

Voters will also be able to use mail-in and advanced polling options more this year than in the past to cast ballots

VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) — British Columbians are heading to the polls next month amid the COVID-19 pandemic, after NDP leader John Horgan requested a fall election Monday following weeks of speculation.

In a meeting with Lieutenant-Governor Janet Austin, Horgan’s request to dissolve the Legislative Assembly was granted and an election date of Saturday, Oct. 24 has been set.

“I firmly believe that this is not a 12-month exercise. We have four years ahead of us, where we all need to work together. And for 12 months to wait for the next election seems to me to be time wasted,” Horgan said.

He added the instability created when Andrew Weaver stepped down as leader of the B.C. Green Party contributed to the decision to request an election.

“We have 12 months remaining in the mandate of this government, but we have a four-year project or longer ahead of us. We have had, as you know, through the summer some challenges with passing legislation. The stability that I believe we had over the course of our minority government is not as strong as it was when we began,” Horgan said.

“The challenges of partisanship within the legislature will always be there, but particularly this summer it was clear to me that there is a great divide between the two sides and the best way forward is to allow those who no longer want to represent their communities because of long service — I know there are seven within my caucus, at least seven within the Liberal group and, of course, Mr. Weaver — who are moving on. So now is the best time, it seems to me, at the beginning of the pandemic, to renew the legislature.”

Because of the pandemic, Elections BC has been making preparations for months, to ensure voting can be done safely. Voters will also be able to use mail-in and advanced polling options more this year than in the past to cast ballots.

Like everything these days, this election will be unlike any other,” Horgan said.But I do believe that can be conducted safely.”

Carole James, the former NDP leader, deputy premier and finance minister who announced earlier this year she has Parkinson’s disease and won’t seek re-election, will work with the public service and administer the government during the five-week election campaign.

“There is not a person in British Columbia that I have more confidence in than her,” Horgan said.

With fixed election dates, the next election was to take place Oct. 16, 2021. Calling an early election breaks the Confidence and Supply Agreement with the Greens to go to the polls only if the NDP loses the confidence of the legislature.

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A provincial election had been speculated for weeks.

Horgan said last week, after the B.C. Green Party voted Sonia Furstenau as its new leader, that he hadn’t decided whether to call an election.

Furstenau said the election call is nothing more than a power grab by the NDP.

“This has not been a time of instability in government. This has been a time of unbelievable cooperation and collaboration. This is exactly what John Horgan should have continued doing. He has chosen not to,” she added.

An Angus Reid Institute poll last month showed Horgan’s approval rating is the highest of any premier in Canada at 69 per cent. The poll also found how well a province is handling the COVID-19 pandemic doesn’t necessarily correlate to the popularity of its leader.

COVID-19 cases have surged in B.C. since summer, with the single-day record broken multiple times. The record of 165 cases was set on Thursday.

“Now none of us thought this would be how we would spend 2020 when it started nine months ago. But the COVID-19 pandemic has changed everything. We are in unprecedented times with challenges we could have never imagined. I want everyone to know that I’ve struggled mightily with this decision and it did not come easy to me. I understand families are concerned about their loved ones and their livelihood. I know people are uncertain and worried about the future. I understand that full well,” Horgan said.

“But I want to share with you why I believe, in my heart, that now is the time to have an election. British Columbians have worked hard to get on the right side of the COVID-19 pandemic. But we are far from out of the woods. We are not at the end of COVID-19. We’re at the beginning, and it will be with us for a year or more.”

In recent weeks, seven NDP cabinet ministers announced they won’t be seeking re-elections.

New Brunswick held a provincial election last week, which resulted in a majority government. Saskatchewan is also planning a provincial election.

BC Liberal Andrew Wilkinson, as he introduced 12 candidates for his party, questioned whether an election is needed.

“Why isn’t it being held in October 2021, and what happened to the deal that he’s so solidly signed and decided to rip up and throw away,” Wilkinson said of Horgan.

Wilkinson said the case count in British Columbia is now the highest in the country per capita, and rising fast.

“Why do we need the upset and turmoil the general election? And the answer is, we don’t.”

That said, Wilkinson added the Liberal party will put forward a positive agenda.

“We have the obligation to bring a picture of a brighter future to every British Columbia and say there’s a better way of doing this. We have a deeply experienced team who know how to competently run a government, and especially a team with the kind of health expertise that a medical doctor like me can bring to the table to help with addressing the problems that we’ve got with the pandemic.”

Liberal MLA Todd Stone questioned the safety of having an election during a pandemic.

 

“Wow. John Horgan just said that the ‘safe operation of schools is not the responsibility of the premier.’ Seriously?,” Stone says in a tweet. “Parents are worried about their kids at school. John Horgan, you’re jeopardizing their safety by forcing an early election for purely opportunistic reasons.”

The B.C. Teachers’ Federation is asking the province to consider using spaces other than schools for election voting.

“School communities are under immense pressure and we are dealing with huge pandemic-related challenges. It’s not a good time to open up to others,” the BCTF says a tweet.

The NDP won 43 seats in the 2017 provincial election. The Liberals took 43 seats, while the Greens won three.