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B.C. election amid COVID-19 pandemic 'unnecessary', expert says

Last Updated Sep 21, 2020 at 11:33 am PST

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A snap election this fall amid the COVID-19 pandemic is unnecessary, according to an expert

Political scientist says focus should be on handling the COVID-19 pandemic, not on sending B.C. to the polls

An election will take place on Oct. 24

VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) – B.C.’s premier has asked the lieutenant governor to dissolve parliament, but an expert says the province should be focusing on the COVID-19 pandemic, not an election.

Max Cameron, who teaches political science at UBC in Vancouver, says a fall election is “unnecessary.”

“The minority parliament has been working well. An agreement between the B.C. NDP and B.C. Greens has been in place now for three years, there’s another year left on that agreement,” he explains.

“The decision to go forward with an election seems to me to be driven almost exclusively by partisanship, by the partisan interest of the B.C. NDP which holds a substantial advantage in the polls right now.”

Speculation over a snap election had been growing for weeks, but John Horgan only met with Lieutenant Governor Janet Austin on Monday. The meeting is a formality during which Horgan would have asked for government to be dissolved — a request that convention dictates she would grant.

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While Cameron says he understands the logic behind the NDP wanting an election at this time, he worries this move could “reinject partisanship” in B.C. politics during what is an already fragile time.

“We should be focusing, overwhelmingly, on the pandemic response,” he tells NEWS 1130.

“Something that has really impressed me about the way in which the government has responded to the pandemic in recent months has been avoidance of an attempt to gain the situation for partisan advantage — I think it’s been really impressive to see how Adrian Dix and Bonnie Henry, in particular, have kind of led him on that file, and they haven’t attempted to make this a partisan, political issue.”

Cameron notes the Green Party and the Liberals have done the same, adding recent months have shown the parliamentary system has been “working very much as it should.”

“I think it’s unfortunate to hold an election at a moment in which we still don’t have the pandemic under control,” he says, explaining there are likely both short term and longer-term political calculations at play behind this decision.

“What I mean by that is one of the reasons why the Green Party holds the balance of power is that they had a very substantial level of support in the last election. Judging by the polls, that support is likely to drop, at least a little bit. Even if it drops only a small amount, it could mean having their three seats wiped out,” Cameron says.

“Part of what I think is happening here is typical effort on the part of a government in a minority situation to try and parler that into a majority situation.”

The next set election date, written into law by Horgan’s government, is a year from now and is something he will have to answer for.

Horgan will also have to address breaking the Confidence and Supply Agreement with the B.C. Greens to only go to the polls if the NDP lost confidence vote.

The last time we saw this was in 2017 after then-Premier Christy Clark failed to win the confidence of the house.

This time, the election would be happening as Horgan is high in the polls and the Liberals and B.C. Greens are reorganizing.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Elections BC has been making preparations for months to ensure voting can be done safely. It’s also expected voters will use mail-in and advance polling options more this year than in the past to cast ballots.

British Columbians will now head to the polls on Oct. 24.