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

Chief Robert Gladstone of Shxwha:y Village at a federal flood funding announcement April 24, 2019. (Jenna Hauck/Chilliwack Progress file)
Consortium of Indigenous chiefs seeking a way to participate in cannabis economy

All Nations Chiefs from the Shxwha:y, Cheam, Soowahlie and Sq’ewlets holding online forum Dec. 2

Signs up at Hope Secondary School inform visitors that the school is a closed campus during the coronavirus pandemic. (Emelie Peacock/Hope Standard)
Fourth COVID-19 exposure reported at Hope Secondary School

Nov. 27 exposure two days after another exposure at the school, with five exposures total across SD78

A vehicle incident is blocking all lanes west of 216th Street on the Trans-Canada Highway in Langley on Nov. 27, 2020. Traffic is getting by only on the shoulder. (DriveBC photo)
UPDATE: New incident on Highway 1 in Langley, crashes involving 10 cars cleared

New incident is reported eastbound underneath the 216th Street overpass

Students at the Chilliwack campus of the University of the Fraser Valley. (Darren MacDonald/ UFV)
UFV asking students to voluntarily report COVID cases and exposures to the school

With COVID cases rising and Fraser Health struggling to keep up, students are asked to help

The board room of the Fraser Valley Regional District. (FVRD)
Jason Lum re-elected for fifth term as chair of the Fraser Valley Regional District

The inaugural meeting of the Fraser Valley Regional District Board went ahead on Nov. 25

A woman wears a protective face covering to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as she walks along the seawall in North Vancouver Wednesday, November 25, 2020.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
911 new COVID-19 cases, 11 deaths as B.C. sees deadliest week since pandemic began

Hospitalizations reach more than 300 across the province

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

Screenshot of Pastor James Butler giving a sermon at Free Grace Baptist Church in Chilliwack on Nov. 22, 2020. The church has decided to continue in-person services despite a public health order banning worship services that was issued on Nov. 19, 2020. (YouTube)
2 Lower Mainland churches continue in-person services despite public health orders

Pastors say faith groups are unfairly targeted and that charter rights protect their decisions

A big job: Former forests minister Doug Donaldson stands before a 500-year-old Douglas fir in Saanich to announce preservation of some of B.C.’s oldest trees, July 2019. (B.C. government)
B.C. returning to ‘stand-alone’ forests, rural development ministry

Horgan says Gordon Campbell’s super-ministry doesn’t work

Peter Wilson, left, and Micah Rankin, right, formed the Special Prosecutor team that was tasked with reviewing and litigating charges stemming from the Bountiful investigation. Trevor Crawley photo.
End of Bountiful prosecution wraps up decades of legal battles

Constitutional questions had to be settled before a polygamy prosecution could move forward

Despite rumours, Surrey RCMP say they are not issuing tickets to people if they are driving in a vehicle with others from a different household. (File photo)
COVID-19 tickets: No, RCMP aren’t checking vehicle occupancies, restaurant tables

Enforcement about education, not punishment says Surrey RCMP Cpl. Joanie Sidhu

Alexandre Bissonnette, who pleaded guilty to a mass shooting at a Quebec City mosque, arrives at the courthouse in Quebec City on February 21, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mathieu Belanger - POOL
Court strikes down consecutive life sentences; mosque shooter has prison term cut

The decision was appealed by both the defence and the Crown

Gold medallists in the ice dance, free dance figure skating Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, of Canada, pose during their medals ceremony at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Charlie Riedel
Olympic champions Virtue, Moir and Tewksbury among 114 Order of Canada inductees

Moir and Virtue catapulted to national stardom with their gold-medal performances at the Winter Olympics in 2018

Shoppers line up in front of a shop on Montreal’s Saint-Catherine Street in search of Black Friday deals in Montreal, Friday, Nov. 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Black Friday shopping in a pandemic: COVID-19 closes some stores, sales move online

Eric Morris, head of retail at Google Canada, says e-commerce in Canada has doubled during the pandemic.

Most Read