Local candidates Pam Alexis, Abbotsford-Mission, and Preet Rai, Abbotsford-West, look on as NDP Leader John Horgan main streets in Abbotsford, B.C., Wednesday, October 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Local candidates Pam Alexis, Abbotsford-Mission, and Preet Rai, Abbotsford-West, look on as NDP Leader John Horgan main streets in Abbotsford, B.C., Wednesday, October 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

B.C. NDP takes snap election risk during pandemic in quest for majority government

Green Leader Sonia Furstenau said the election was unnecessary and irresponsible during the pandemic

British Columbia’s New Democrats took a risk calling a snap election during a global pandemic to pursue a majority government, creating a major campaign issue for the party’s opponents.

NDP Leader John Horgan said he called the election more than one year ahead of schedule because he is seeking the certainty and stability of a majority during uncertain times, but he spent much of the campaign fending off accusations of political opportunism.

The Greens accused Horgan of breaking a governing agreement in place since 2017, and the B.C. Liberals said he withheld COVID-19 pandemic relief dollars for struggling businesses to bolster his chest of election goodies.

The election during the pandemic saw politicians campaign remotely with virtual town halls, Zoom calls and elbow bumps replacing traditional gatherings and handshakes from politicians wearing masks.

“Once British Columbians came to terms with the fact the election was underway they wanted to know what the options were, what their choices were and they’ll act accordingly,” Horgan said in an interview. “I believe now we’re days away from putting the election behind us so that we can have a new government, whoever that might be, focused on the needs of British Columbians.”

The election is being conducted safely and support for increased days of advanced polls and requests for mail-in ballots is encouraging, he said.

Green Leader Sonia Furstenau said the election was unnecessary and irresponsible during the pandemic.

She said the agreement the NDP reached with the Greens to form a minority government after the 2017 election was stable, but Horgan decided to break the trust to further his own political ambitions.

“I believe that you need to earn trust everyday,” said Horgan. “It’s not just about an agreement among politicians. Where the confidence is required is in communities right across B.C. That’s what I’ve been talking about and getting a positive response.”

Prof. Kimberly Speers, a Canadian politics expert at the University of Victoria, said the timing of the election was a constant issue in the campaign and the NDP didn’t do a good job of articulating for voters the decision to go to the polls early.

She said she sensed Horgan may have considered potential changes in the NDP’s relationship with the Greens following the departure of former Green leader Andrew Weaver earlier this year.

Weaver, who left the Greens to sit as an Independent, is not running in the election and has endorsed the NDP.

“Something is going on there because if Weaver is supporting the NDP and not the new leader of the Green party, there’s something going on,” said Speers. “I don’t know what it is, but it does raise my eyebrows in terms of seeing that agreement breaking down somehow.”

READ MORE: B.C. NDP’s pledge of free birth control followed by Liberals, Greens

When the election was called, the NDP and Liberals each held 41 seats in the legislature. There were two Greens, two Independents and one vacancy.

Prof. Kathryn Harrison, a political scientist at the University of British Columbia, said the NDP spent a large part of the campaign trying to convince voters the election was not just about good timing for the party.

“I think the NDP had to have an argument ready about why they were calling an election and it couldn’t just be we’re ahead in the polls and we want to lock down a majority now,” she said. “They had to say we want certainty and stability.”

The trust issue also featured largely in interactions between Horgan and Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson.

During the televised leaders debate, Wilkinson accused Horgan of betraying the Green party and withholding pandemic recovery funds from struggling businesses during the summer in order to introduce a $1.5 billion relief plan days before the election call.

Horgan said Wilkinson was wrong.

The Liberal promise to eliminate the seven per cent provincial sales tax for one year, with a return to three per cent the following year, saw the NDP counter with a pledge to give most families $1,000 and individuals $500.

“We said we wanted to put money directly in the hands of middle- and low-income British Columbians so that they can make their choices about how to get through this pandemic,” Horgan said. “The idea of a PST reduction to zero does nothing but blow a hole in the budget, some $8 billion.”

Prof. Andrey Pavlov, who teaches economics at Simon Fraser University’s Beedie school of business, said the PST cut does more for the stimulating the B.C. economy than the NDP’s $1,000.

“It’s a one-time payment,” he said. “It doesn’t really draw any other funds into the economy.”

Horgan also offered apologies during the campaign for his own comments and those of candidate Nathan Cullen, a former NDP member of Parliament.

Cullen was overheard making negative comments about a rival Liberal candidate.

READ MORE: Horgan, Cullen apologize for NDP candidate’s comments about Haida candidate

Horgan also apologized shortly after the debate for saying he doesn’t “see colour” when asked how he reckons with his white privilege.

“The good news is there has been light shone during this campaign on racism and the need to not just talk about it in a debate during an election campaign, but we need to talk about it everyday,” he said on Wednesday.

Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

BC NDPBC politicsBC Votes 2020

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A woman wears a face mask and shield to curb the spread of COVID-19 while walking in North Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday, January 6, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
57 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health region

Thirty people in the region are in hospital, 16 of whom are in intensive care

Bears are coming out of hibernation with the warm days of spring. (Pixabay)
WildSafeBC: How to avoid bear encounters

Bears can now be seen out on the trails after waking up from hibernation

Rossland City Council issued a press release critical of Mayor Kathy Moore's travel to the U.S.
Rossland council addresses issue of mayor’s travel to U.S.

Prior to her trip, some councillors and staff expressed deep concerns about her plans

Teck has reported three separate incidents of ammonia leaks at Trail fertilizer ops this year. Photo: Trail Times
Teck Trail reports third ammonia leak this year

The company closed Bingay Road temporarily as a precaution

Photo: File
Fruitvale councillor responds to online criticism

“The bullying has to stop. People want to be heard, everybody wants to be heard” - Lindsay Kenny

Protesters attempt to stop clear-cutting of old-growth trees in Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew. (Will O���Connell photo)
VIDEO: Workers, activists clash at site of Vancouver Island logging operation

Forest license holders asking for independent investigation into incident

Flow Academy is located at 1511 Sutherland Avenue in Kelowna. (Michael Rodriguez/Capital News)
Interior Health locks out Kelowna martial arts gym following COVID violations

Actions were taken after all other steps to gain compliance were exhausted, says health authority

A man who allegedly spat at and yelled racial slurs at an Asian family was arrested for hate-motivated assault Tuesday. (Black Press Media file photo)
Arrest made after man spits, yells anti-Asian racial slurs at Victoria mom and kids

The man was arrested for hate-motivated assault near Quadra Elementary School Tuesday

A lady wears a vaccinated sticker after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Canada may find it challenging to reach herd immunity from COVID-19, experts say

Level of immunity among the population changes with the variants, especially the more transmissible strains

B.C.’s provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Dip in COVID-19 cases with 572 newly announced in B.C.

No new deaths have been reported but hospitalized patients are up to 481, with 161 being treated in intensive care

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Solar panels on a parking garage at the University of B.C. will be used to separate water into oxygen and hydrogen, the latter captured to supply a vehicle filling station. (UBC video)
UBC parkade project to use solar energy for hydrogen vehicles

Demonstration project gets $5.6M in low-carbon fuel credits

FILE – A student arrives at school as teachers dressed in red participate in a solidarity march to raise awareness about cases of COVID-19 at Ecole Woodward Hill Elementary School, in Surrey, B.C., on Tuesday, February 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. ‘should be able to’ offer 1st dose of COVID vaccine to kids 12+ by end of June: Henry

Health Canada authorized the vaccine for younger teens this morning

Most Read